While the most famous images to come out of the Great Depression, such as Dorothea Lange’s “Migrant Mother” photographs, seem to have been focused on the people upon whom the Depression came crashing down, the prominent images of our tough times seem to focus on the buildings hardest hit. Whereas those Depression-era images force us to see the human struggle, some have argued that the images of today, ubiquitously known as “ruin porn,” allow the viewer to disconnect the human consequences from these dilapidated and abandoned buildings. They are, after all, places that people once lived, places where commerce once thrived, and in many cases, the people are still living just outside the lens.
Utne’s been covering this trend since at least as far back as 2009, usually focusing our attention on the fascinating journey of Detroit over the last few years. Of course, Detroit is not the only city where buildings have been neglected, where places have been abandoned. And the U.S. is not the only country to have its map spotted with such places. The blog fuckyeahghosttowns takes the reader all around the world, from an abandoned motel near Los Angeles to an earthquake ravaged town in Sicily. As with the latter, not all of these images are of places left destitute as a result of the most recent economic downturn. Many, though, do have in common the fact that they were left to wither because of some change on the face of the economy over the last century. Towns built up to cater to one burgeoning development, left to die when our fancies change course. Many of the images are accompanied by the back story that led to the unique place in time when the photo was snapped.
Though there are no people in these images, I for one cannot help but see human faces all over them. After all, it’s clear that these places were made for us. How can you not wonder where all the people who once lived, slept, played, worked, and ate at each of these places have gone?
Related: “Turning Suffering into a Still Life,” “Fallen City with a Heart of Gold,” and “The Problem with Documentary Photography of Urban Decay”
Image by ctsnow, licensed under Creative Commons.