Monocle | PHOTOGRAPHY: SAN FRANCISCO American Beauty: The Opulent Pre-Depression Architecture of Detroit by Philip Jarmain

Detroit may no longer be living up to its one- time moniker “The Paris of the Midwest” but Canadian photographer Philip Jarmain is determined to capture whatever remains of the city’s glory days of the early 1900s. His photography show American Beauty opens Saturday in San Francisco at the Meridian Gallery, curated by Sheeka Arbuthnot. Large-format photographs of Detroit’s deteriorating historical architecture and standouts such as the Eastown Theatre not only visually make an impact, but are also a poignant reminder that even large and powerful cities can crumble if they don't keep up.


San Francisco Chronicle | Philip Jarmain extracts beauty from grains of decay | Kenneth Baker by Philip Jarmain

Disasters - social and ecological, gradual or headlong - spell photographic opportunity. We who find this a little distasteful have to bear in mind that photography has contributed in myriad ways to the world whose suffering it witnesses.

Just consider the splendid pictures of ruined pre-Depression architecture in Detroit that Canadian photographerPhilip Jarmain shows at Meridian.

Then recall Robert Polidori's pictures of mildewed grandeur in Havana and of Chernobyl's "exclusion zone," orRichard Misrach's pictures of Louisiana's Cancer Alley, seen this summer at Stanford.

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The Coolist | The Ruins of Detroit by Philip Jarmain by Philip Jarmain

Urban decay has a strange allure to the human spirit.  Nowhere in the United States is this decay more pronounced than in Detroit, Michigan, once the fourth largest American city.  Now in the throes of bankruptcy, this lost capitol of the industrial revolution is undergoing a metamorphosis.  Despite these changes, its history still stands in the shape of fallen sky scrapers and empty industrial plants.  Photographer Philip Jarmain explored the beauty of this urban decay in his series American Beauty, now showing at the Meridian Gallery in San Francisco.  We asked Jarmain to share his story and the inspiration that brought him to these abandoned industrial monuments.

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Designboom | Philip Jarmain Documents Detroits Architectural Past by Philip Jarmain

canadian photographer philip jarmain presents ‘american beauty’, a series of images that document the rapid destruction of detroitʼs early twentieth-century architecture. the haunting captures depict abandoned, forgotten spaces of a bygone era, cataloging the ingenuity and innovation of the american city that has since spiraled downward.  the interiors and exteriors of monumental public buildings are tired and worn, some deteriorated beyond recognition. opulent architectural structures like theaters and hotels, which once beautified detroit streets, are currently being destroyed at an exponential rate. the collection of photographs emphasize the form and detail of the buildings themselves, archiving a forgotten era and the lost art of significant architects. ‘these are the last large format architectural photographs for many of these structures.’, says jarmain.

Wired | Can Detroit’s Architectural Past Inspire It to Claw Back to Greatness? | Jakob Schiller by Philip Jarmain

It often happens that news events create a new context for existing photo projects, and such is the case with Philip Jarmain’s photos of Detroit in light of the city’s recent filing for bankruptcy. Jarmain’s series American Beautydocuments architecture from a pre-Depression era Detroit — a time when the city was on the rise. They now stand in contrast to its current rock-bottom economic straits.

Dozens, if not hundreds, of photographers have flocked to Detroit during the city’s long slide, documenting its demise and creating an entire category of “ruin porn.” But Jarmain sees his work as optimistic and uplifting. Whether his photos stand as a goodbye to a glory forever passed or an inspiration for what the city could be again, is a matter of perspective.

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