In Defense of Ruins?
It’s extraordinary, to someone who doesn’t live in Detroit or elsewhere in America, how contentious those pictures have become. They are the prime, disreputable exhibits of so-called “ruin porn,” a term widely used now in the US, though not as yet much in evidence in the UK. I dislike the coinage intensely and I’m not surprised that thoughtful, well-intentioned photographers are annoyed to be smeared with it. Ruin porn is a corrosively repeatable meme that makes any picture of ruins seem suspect. In an essay for Places, Jerry Herron suggests that pictures like those by Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre in The Ruins of Detroit (showing at Wilmotte Gallery in London, February 24 to April 5) foreclose action, “except for the connoisseur-like contemplations of the solitary spectator, who is freed to look at the worst, without any necessity of further exertion.”