No longer the Motor City of boom-time industry, the city of Detroit has fallen into an incredible state of dilapidation since the decline of the American auto industry after the Second World War. Today, whole sections of the city resemble a war zone, its once-spectacular architectural grandeur reduced to vacant ruins. In Detroit Disassembled, photographer Andrew Moore records a territory in which the ordinary flow of time-or the forward march of the assembly line-appears to have been thrown spectacularly into reverse. For Moore, who throughout his career has been drawn to all that contradicts or seems to threaten America’s postwar self-image (his previous projects include portraits of Cuba and Soviet Russia), Detroit’s decline affirms the carnivorousness of our earth, as it seeps into and overruns the buildings of a city that once epitomized humankind’s supposed supremacy. In Detroit Disassembled, Moore locates both dignity and tragedy in the city’s decline, among postapocalyptic landscapes of windowless grand hotels, vast barren factory floors, collapsing churches, offices carpeted in velvety moss and entire blocks reclaimed by prairie grass. Beyond their jawdropping content, Moore’s photographs inevitably raise the uneasy question of the long-term future of a country in which such extreme degradation can exist unchecked.
Andrew Moore is best known for his large format photographs of Cuba, Russia, Times Square, Detroit, and most recently, the American High Plains. He graduated from Princeton University in 1979 where he studied with the esteemed photographer Emmet Gowin as well as the photo historian Professor Peter Bunnell. Moore’s photographs are held in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Yale University Art Gallery, Museum of Fine Arts Houston, the George Eastman House and the Library of Congress amongst many others. His publications include Cuba (2012), Detroit Disassembled (2010), Russia; Beyond Utopia (2005), Governors Island (2004) and Inside Havana (2002). He currently teaches a graduate seminar in the MFA Photography Video and Related Media program at the School of Visual Arts in New York City.
Reviewing Andrew Moore’s Detroit Disassembled in The New York Times online, Holly Brubach writes, “The sight of fluorescent moss carpeting a floor or birch trees sprouting from a bed of rotting books signifies for him not–or not only–a boomtown’s tragic collapse but an occasion to devise a new urban paradigm, one that incorporates vast swaths of woods and farmland. Moore’s Detroit, though sparsely populated, is not a ghost town. An East Side man identified as Algernon stares out from his ramshackle porch, his dog perched on the stairs. Schoolchildren pause in the middle of a Highland Park street and solemnly meet the camera’s gaze. Seven friends in hoodies and jeans drink beer on a Foxtown rooftop. It’s harder to dismiss Detroit and its fate in the face of these reminders that the city isn’t dead, that, however deserted its neighborhoods, not everyone has given up and walked away.” Featured image is from Detroit Disassembled.
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