Urban Adventure Part Two

Ruin porn. That's a term you hear in Detroit these days in reference to the fascination with abandonment and decay in the city. And while I completely understand where that phrase is coming from, I can't help but be fascinated with it myself.

I know how the images of ruin skew the world's perception of Detroit - which is much more alive and vibrant that you probably imagine - and that's a shame, but the ruins are fascinating. And it's not just the condition of these abandoned buildings that's something to witness, but the fact that they're so accessible. It's incredible that these places still stand, that they haven't been razed, or properly secured, or policed.

Detroit's most sprawling urban ruin is the Packard Plant. Spread out over 35 acres, the Packard is an immense complex of crumbling dilapidation. But it's not a victim of the recent economic downturn - even though photos of the plant are often used by the media to dramatize current events.

Packard has been out of business since the 1950s.

The Packard Plant produced luxury automobiles from 1903 - 1956. It went out of business when GM's Cadillac became the luxury car of choice.

After its closure the plant was subdivided and leased to small businesses, but it has mostly stood empty for the last five decades. The city of Detroit has a long history of litigation over the ownership of the land and the condition of the property. According the the Detroit Free Press the plant is currently owned by a guy serving a jail term in California on drug charges.

I'd heard of the Packard Plant and I'd seen photos of it, but I'd never actually been there in person until last week. I was taken there by local photographer, Rob Monaghan.

It was a chilly November afternoon and we'd already been photo exploring for several hours that day so we didn't stay long, but I was awed. It's seriously like being on the set of an post-apocalyptic movie. Or actually being in a post-apocalyptic world.

At first it seemed we were the only people there - the only souls in this immense, desolate, squalid landscape. But then I noticed other photographers, mostly young people, here and there, like tourists seeing the sights. The Packard is a popular destination for urban explorers, metal scrappers, graffiti artists, and arsonists.

It was definitely like no other place I've ever been in my life, and I wish I'd had the opportunity to see it before it got as bad as it is now. Much has been destroyed by fire. Much has been destroyed by vandals and scrappers. And much has crumbled. But I'm itching to go back - hopefully this spring - because there is still so much photographic fodder there.