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The Problem with Documentary Photography of Urban Decay

 by Stephanie Glaros

Tags: Arts, visual art, photography, Detroit, urban decay, photojournalism, Vice, Stephanie Glaros,


I must admit, I am a big fan of the popular genre of documentary photography known as “Urban Decay.” Images of abandoned buildings or city blocks gone to seed can make for some strange and beautiful photos. And if urban decay photography has a capital city, it’s Detroit.

Vice magazine is critical of photographers and journalists who visit Detroit and come away with the same old stories and post-apocolyptic Detroit photographs in this cheeky article by Thomas Morton. He talks to Detroit photographer James Griffioen, who says he frequently fields phone calls “from outside journalists looking for someone to sherpa them to the city’s best shitholes”:

 You get worn down trying to show them all the different sides of the city, then watching them go back and write the same story as everyone else. The photographers are the worst. Basically the only thing they’re interested in shooting is ruin porn.

Not every story coming out of Detroit is bad news, check out Bloggers Versus Blight from our Nov.-Dec. 2008 issue, a story about the feisty newspaper Detroit News.

 (Thanks, Coudal.)         

Image by John in Mich, licensed under Creative Commons.