I remember a while back I came across a website called http://detroiturbex.com/content/schools/cass/index.html. It is a huge organisation that documents what happened to Detroit and how it is now changing.
So what did happen to Detroit?
Over a time span of 100 years, Detroit has seen its population increase immensely but then plummet at an alarming rate. In 1910 the population was counted at 285,700 but then it sawed in 1950 when it reached a huge 1,850,000. Due to the mass population, Detroit had to regenerate its city. The city needed new streets, new schools and new hospitals to meet the demand of the people. However after the reconstruction took place, the population started to decrease once again in 2010 to 713,000.
The problem Detroit faced was people were moving and putting their houses up for sale but their was no one who wanted to buy the houses that were on the market. Houses were left empty for months turning into years in which they were then targets for arson attacks. Churches stayed open however they would eventually close due to lack of attendance. School that were built to maintain the growing population closed down as students started to leave and there was not enough students enrolling to the facilities.
Woodward Avenue Presbyterian Church – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-13384255
Detroit was built to hold roughly 2 million people, but less than a third of that population remains their today. This is why detroiturbex.com choses to document the current change in Detroit.
A certain project I looked as is called ‘Now and Then’. In which they documented the change of the school shown above over the years. I chose this because it relates to what I aim to do in my own project which is to merge two photographs together, one old and one new. Here are some examples of their work below:
The 1917 entrance, early 1920’s and present day.
The former book store. – I feel that this one specifically you have to do a double take. It is so well matched and almost disguised that this could easily be mistaken for a single scene not two combined. For this photograph they would have had to have been extremely precise with there angles, otherwise this would have been difficult to match as precise as this.
The arts mural on floor 3, 1988.
You can see the precision that has been used by the way the lockers and line across the wall are the exact same angle. The one thing I found when looking at the photograph was that you can see the happy school atmosphere from the old photograph, and it automatically sends you back the memories you have when at school, however as your eyes start to wander you notice the abandonment that surrounds this moment, the rubble that is scattered around it. That once happy atmosphere you just felt slowly diminishes.
Second floor hallway.
The way they have used old photographs from the past and how they have managed to match them identically to the now abandoned school is phenomenal and inspires me to try and produce high quality imagery such as this work. A lot more of this work can be seen here : http://detroiturbex.com/content/schools/cass/thenandnow/index.html
Before my merging idea, my plan was to just place the old image next to a new one. As I navigated around this site I came across another project of theirs which consisted of the old image and then a new image following it. Here are some examples:
The first photograph, even though I feel it is a rather simple photograph their use of light is captivating. The blind has allowed the light that would originally be harsh, to soften in which it has highlighted certain areas of the image, such as the strip of light going across the mattress and floor as well as the corner of the room on the right. It almost gives eerie feel like something might happen. Then the second image almost confirms the way I look at the first photograph. The fire that destroyed St.Luke’s hospital has caused parts of the walls to peel only leaving remnants of the former hospital that used to care for patients. Instead of the soft light that consumes the first photograph you see a harsh white light from outside creating white highlights around details throughout the room.
The whole building deteriorates uncontrollably as the rot of the flames still lingers throughout the wall of the building, it almost makes it unrecognisable. On the first photograph you can tell that the blinds are closed throughout the rooms, once again creating that eerie atmosphere. Now the burned down blinds shed light throughout the building as their is no longer anything protecting this structure.
What was once a reception area becomes an abandoned room filled with charcoaled walls, broken furniture and caved in walls. It once looked like a warm friendly area that can cater to peoples needs but now their is an emptiness that takes over. There are signs of this homely room left.
Everything starts to wear, they hold no former memories of what this hospital used to be. The only thing that is left are the burnt folders of the people who used to be treated at St. Luke’s Hospital.