Detroitism

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Historical Oblivion
John Patrick Leary’s essay, Detroitism explores the most common rhetoric that Detroit as a city and a symbol often falls victim to the validity of ‘ruin porn’ which attempts to document but often exploits its history. Leary is an American literature teacher at Wayne State University in Detroit. His essay explores in-depth the shallowness of popular ruin pornographers, Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre, photographs from their book, The Ruins of Detroit, as well as other popular photographers. He also outlines the three “Detroit Stories,” which are typical attitudes regarding Detroit news and media discussion. He intends to reveal a point he thinks is of reasonable importance to readers’. His essay is one with a valid message. However it can be difficult to understand exactly what he means at times as he shifts from criticism to defence of the photographers he mentions, which can sometime confuse them into getting to different conclusions. Nevertheless, he does eventually secure a crucial point that stands out to most readers.

According to John Patrick Leary, “Detroit remains the Mecca of urban ruins.” Leary notes that ruin photography is often deemed “pornographic,” and questions how photographs of a crumbling city can really tell us why that city crumbles. Where ruin photography succeeds is “in compelling us” to ask the questions necessary to put this story together—Detroit’s story, but also the increasingly familiar story of urban America in an era of prolonged economic crisis. He adjusts his writing in an effort to unveil a different view of Detroit’s past to the readers. In Leary’s view, most people are completely blinded by the fascination conveyed in the photographs and are unaware of the events that actually took place in the city. One example of ruin-porn Leary chooses to criticize is an extract from The British filmmaker Julien Temple’s  ‘Detroit: The Last Days’: “In their shadows, the glazed eyes of the street zombies slide into...
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