Part 1 of 3 of an essay by me (and some of my favorite Rust Belt writers), Rust Belt Girl

factory-1354672_640
Photo by Michael Gaida via Pixabay. (Calling for pics: got Rust Belt images you’re willing to share?)

The term “Ruin Porn” doesn’t exactly endear this Rust Belt native to the genre of photography.

David Giffels, Akronite (Akron, Ohio) and author of the wonderfully reminiscent, inspiring, and redemptive (though he would take umbrage with that last descriptor) The Hard Way on Purpose: Essays and Dispatches from the Rust Belt, defines Ruin Porn—also called abandonment photography—in his essay, “Pretty Vacant”:

“Ruin Porn is applied mainly to photography of abandoned, decaying urban spaces and has especially been focused on the postindustrial regions … with urban explorers—ranging from amateur point-and-shooters to high-profile artists—trespassing in empty buildings and distressed neighborhoods, documenting what others have ignored.”

Giffels goes on to list a few of the more celebrated Ruin Porn photographers: Camilo Jose Vergara, Matthew Christopher, Sean Posey, Andrew Moore… Not a female in the bunch, I notice.

You’ve seen such photos, no doubt. Giffels describes the type better than I could:

“Their work unfolds inside collapsed libraries where trees have taken root in rotting texts. And in vacant factories, floors strewn with trash…And around foreclosed homes succumbing to mold and rot. And along polluted rivers strung with run-down industrial strips.”

Absent from most of these photos is people, or people who figure in any meaningful way. Of course, the evidence of human industriousness—in many cases, once-beautiful architecture—is there in the photographs, but now it’s frozen in a suspended image of decay.

Ruin Porn. We could argue whether it’s artistic exploitation, romanticizing the downturn in industry and the resulting poverty—or if the art form might serve as a call to action.

What I see in Ruin Porn is the American Dream on its knees, with no dreamer in the scene.

What’s your take on Ruin Porn?

Tune in for Part 2…coming soon.

As for the call: if you have photos of the Rust Belt you’d like to share, I’d love to see them. Contact me.

And the prize: in an earlier post, I mentioned the spring 2017 issue of Sou’wester, in which my short story, “Betting Blind,” along with a ton of great prose and poetry, appeared. I’d love to gain more followers interested in Rust Belt reading and writing. So, spread the word to your social media contacts about Rust Belt Girl; get me two followers; and when they’ve tagged along with us for two weeks, I’ll put a copy of the Sou’wester issue in the mail to you at your continental U.S. address.

~All best, Rebecca

Advertisements

4 thoughts on ““‘Ruin Porn’ to Rust Belt beauty: her place in resurrecting the American Dream,” a call, and a prize

  1. I love looking a “ruin porn” for the sake that it preserves images of buildings and the way things were built during a certain time period, but I do gravitate more towards hospitals, asylums , and prisons built during the turn of the century. I find it fascinating that such elaborate buildings were built for utilitarian purposes.

    Like

  2. I too find it amazing that such elaborate design and architecture oftentimes filled such utilitarian needs. And of course ruins of asylums, prisons, and the like can feel haunted long after the last sad soul is gone.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s