DIA photo exhibit puts Detroit in spotlight

Oct 10, 2011

A new exhibit at the Detroit Institute of Arts looks at life in the Motor City over the past decade. 

The exhibit - Detroit Revealed - includes videos and photographs of city residents and community gardens. It also includes images of the city’s decline: abandoned buildings and empty, overgrown lots - what some call “ruin porn."

Nancy Barr is one of the curators of the Detroit Revealed exhibit. "The ruin gazing that's been going on over the last ten years is really part of the reason I decided to do the exhibition," says Barr. "I don’t think you can ignore it."

Featured artists in the exhibit include Michelle Andonian, Scott Hocking and Andrew Moore, among others.

"This is the exhibit that hopefully educates people to see the beauty in what is true and honest here in Detroit," says Andonian. The exhibit is "trying to look at photographers doing different things in Detroit," adds Hocking.

Earlier this year, we talked to photographer Andrew Moore about his photographs of Detroit. The New York artist took photographs of dozens of abandoned buildings in the city for his photo book Detroit Disassembled:

"I think there is a long artistic tradition of photographing ruin as a way of talking about man’s life and there’s a kind of mortality involved," says Moore. "Just as we look at an old face and see somebody’s life, you can look at an old building that’s certainly past its prime and get a sense of history. These places are witnesses to history, and an important history."

Moore spent 60 days in Detroit photographing all the ruin porn biggies in the city: The Packard Plant, the city’s old technical high school, the notorious Detroit Public Schools Book Depository, where thousands of books are moldering in piles on the floor. 

Moore says being an outsider allows him to see the city differently:

"I think if you live there [Detroit], you’re so jaded to all this decay, dereliction, things falling apart, it’s hard to work from it. It’s hard to make art from it. So I think as a tourist, as somebody coming with fresh eyes, you have the advantage of a kind of horror and awe of this process and maybe even an enthusiasm."

The new exhibit includes more than 50 large-scale color and traditional black-and-white photograph. It opens October 16, 2011 and runs through April 8, 2012.