BY MARK W. SMITH
FREE PRESS WEB EDITOR
We've all seen the startling images of abandoned buildings.
When a national media outlet comes to do a story on downtrodden Detroit, where do they send the photographer?
The Michigan Central Station, Packard Plant or Fisher Body Plant.
NPR's "On the Media" did a story on the phenomenon recently, calling the images of destruction "ruin porn."
You can listen to the show here:
NPR talked to Thomas Morton, who wrote on the topic for Vice magazine last month in a story headlined "Something, something, something Detroit: Lazy journalists love pictures of abandoned stuff."
Morton told NPR's Bob Garfield that some photographers frame photos in just a way that leaves out any sign of prosperity, focusing only on the destruction.
"I think when you’re presented with a photo and then a little bit of description of it, the image stands so strongly that it’s almost hard to argue it," Morton told NPR. "You’re throwing what seem like minor quibbles at this shot of utter desolation."
• Gallery: The Packard Plant, then and now
• Gallery: Michigan Central Station
• Video: Inside the Michigan Central Station
• Gigapan: Michigan Central Station
But what should the photographers focus on? As Garfield noted in his introduction, "You can't take a picture of the GDP."
Morton specifically called out a photo essay by Time published in late 2008 called "The Remains of Detroit."
The 12-image essay focuses on the Michigan Central Station, Fisher Body Plant and the Packard Plant.
Morton's publication is no stranger to reaping the rewards of posting ruin porn, however.
Vice posted a breathtaking photo essay earlier this year on the condition of some abandoned school buildings in Detroit. The photos by James Griffioen show supplies — computers, books, student files — left behind, scattered on the ground.
Morton said the essay on Vice tripled traffic to its Web site for almost a week.
What do you think? Are we obsessed with images of destruction?
Contact MARK W. SMITH: email@example.com
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