Broken City, Broken Symmetry

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First Impression: Detroit has it bad. Everything in this picture is crumbling and decaying: peeling wallpaper, chipped paint, cracked window panes, trash strewn across the floor, and no life anywhere in site. Worst of all the depth of the hallway implies that this room is just one of many, while the buildings in the background imply that this whole building is just one of many.

Second Impression: I read over the essays “The Photo Essay: Give It Your Best Shot” and “10 Top Photography Composition Rules.” In the photo I now notice that the doorway is along one of the imaginary vertical lines that make up the rule of thirds and give the photo a more dynamic presentation than if the doorway stood in the center. Focusing the viewer’s attention on the doorway, the windows act as leading lines that point the audience to the center of the frame. All of the symmetry, however, breaks apart, because of the trash. Bits of wood, metal, old shelves, and what may be a radiator jut out devoid of any real pattern. This creates a dramatic subversion of the symmetry typically used in photography that conveys the impressions of decay and decomposition that the building imparted in the photographer.

Third Impression: I start to think about how all of these techniques fit together. Every photo in “The Ruins of Detroit” focuses on Detroit’s abandoned buildings – vacant, decrepit, almost forgotten. Nevertheless, Marchand and Meffre begin their essay with a paragraph about Detroit’s former place as a booming, industrial capital. The automobile industry once propelled Detroit to becoming the fourth most populous city in the United States. Paradoxically, though, the industry that made Detroit allowed a mass exodus from the city. And that may be the most striking part of the photo I picked. All of the beauty was once their: brand new wallpaper, a fresh coat of paint, polished windows, well-constructed symmetrical rooms,  etc. Then everyone started leaving. Overtime the trash piled up, the weather beat down on the place, and no one was there to fix the place. No one had a reason to. One of the most persuasive arguments that this piece makes is that without jobs or a stable place to live people will abandon their cities. This holds true for any city, anywhere, with any race of people in it.

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