Alluring decay, disquieting beauty : Andrew Moore’s Detroit photographs
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Andrew Moore’s series of photographs, Detroit Disassembled (2010), debuted in the United States in the midst of an escalating recession, mortgage and foreclosure crisis, and political fallout from federally-backed bank and automaker bailouts. Due to their subject matter, a number of viewers have interpreted the photographs as apt visualizations of contemporary crises. The photos depict the ruins of a cityscape scarred by decades of deindustrialization, economic decline, and significant outmigration. Shown in galleries, museums, on the Web, and published in a popular photo book, Moore’s images have circulated relatively widely. Viewers have responded to the photos through a variety of media outlets, and their impressions of the images have been melancholic, visceral, distressed, and deeply uncertain. Some viewers have attacked Moore for exploiting and aestheticizing Detroit’s suffering, others have perceived the images as a disturbing commentary on the state of the nation, and many have found the images beautiful, if desolate. The tensions between viewer responses, carrying the inflections of contemporary concerns, provide a valuable snapshot of how Moore’s photographs of Detroit have furnished a flashpoint and modulated a public discourse encompassing a number of interconnected apprehensions about the economy, deindustrialization, the environment, and social responsibility. However, Detroit’s protracted experience of decline and abandonment has made the intersection of aesthetics and urban politics in Moore’s photographs particularly controversial and troubling for some viewers. Because photographs are only partial glimpses of social and spatial phenomena, Moore’s images have proven versatile in their ability to distill and illustrate multifarious viewer concerns.