Last month I had the chance to photograph Detroit’s abandoned Packard Automotive Plant. It is 3.5 million square foot photographers playground. Of course we only saw a fraction of the site as we were trying to see and shoot as much of the city as we could during our 3 day “tour”. That and after a couple of hours, 3.5 million square feet of vandalized, burned, burning, crumbling, picked-over, partially demolished, stripped, weather worn and trashed ruin porn becomes visually overwhelming.
What struck me most about Detroit’s crumbling history were 2 things. 1: The access. There was only one site we couldn’t get into that we attempted entrance too (The Farwell Building), everywhere else was WIDE-OPEN. 2: Fires. Many of the sites had recently burned or in the case of Packard Automotive were on fire! I couldn’t get over the fact that a sprawling property like Packard could be burning without the slightest notice of a fire department. While we were “touring” Highland Park after Packard we had a chance encounter with a resident who explained the “Fire Departments'” reaction time to fire’s with a sly shrug of her shoulders. Granted Packard and Highland Park are essentially 2 different cities, but there just isn’t concern for abandoned properties burning.
Considering the back taxes owed on the Packard site, the cost to demolish what is left of the buildings and dispose of the asbestos et-al ($20 million), a good fire would be a quick fix to the “current” owners legal issues with the city of Detroit.
These are a couple of my fire shots of the Packard Automotive Plant.
See some sweet shots by Detroit Funk of a recent camper on the roof and fire at Packard.
Last year I began my series documenting artists’ work spaces and I kicked the series off shooting the Team Macho Studio.
Founded in 1953 by brothers Bob and Don Crowe. The Crowe Foundry made iron castings for water pumps, engines and the agricultural sector. Unable to secure new financing in 2009, the factory closed putting 145 people out of work.
I shot the foundry shortly after it closed with my TLR. We weren’t on site for long, so i only shot a couple rolls of film, one colour and one black and white. Because i develop my own black and white film and take my colour to the lab, my colour films are always processed first. This particular roll however eluded development for 2 + years as it was mislaid in a light safe bag and shelved! I shoot more than i process, and prefer shooting to the darkroom (who doesn’t?), and when this film didn’t turn up, i thought maybe i had developed it and misplaced the negs (this has sadly happened), but i continued to look for it all the same. It wasn’t until i moved that this roll and others were discovered and processed!
The locker room and more specifically how the lockers are “decorated” and what is left behind inside can say so much about the people who once worked in the abandoned spaces I photograph. As much as what is there might tell a story, so can what isn’t. Unlike Bunge where the lockers were filled with pornography (raunchy birth canal porn) a trend in food industry locker rooms I’ve found, Crowe’s locker contents were akin to the what you might find in the back of a desk drawer, items that are useful if you ran out of the one you were using, something to smell good, refresh your breath, polish your appearance with etc. and of course, work shirts/shoes and other soot covered items that wouldn’t be needed anymore. But most were just empty. In fact the locker rooms were as immaculate as the foundry, (as immaculate as it could be), everything had been arranged, cleaned, stacked and put-away. People with pride? Or auto-bots who did what they did everyday on the last day at work?
This is the postcard I designed for the Scotiabank Nuit Blanche Independent Project, Residue i am co-curating and exhibiting in.