Ballroom, American Hotel, 2007, chromogenic print, 95 x 120 cm; ultrachrome print, 150 x 190 cm
Yves Marchand & Romain Meffre
Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre are two French photographers who met through a mutual interest in contemporary ruins. They began their collaboration in 2002 by exploring Parisian remains before traveling to America and producing their seminal work The Ruins of Detroit.
THE RUINS OF DETROIT
TheRuins of Detroit is a five year collaboration between French photographers Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre. Together they have documented Detroit’s abandoned buildings, thus bringing to light the current state of the ‘Motor City’ through a cinematic series of starkly beautiful photographs. Shooting with a large format, custom made camera, taking advantage of natural light and using long exposures, the images embody the unique atmosphere of each location. Marchand and Meffre’s work retains a formal quality and is conceived as a document, giving the viewer a surreal glimpse of Detroit’s former glory.
Hashima, the ‘Island on the Edge,’ lies about 15 kilometres off the coast of Japan. Today the island is dark and silent, but 50 years ago it was the site of a prosperous coal mine with long tunnels descending to coal beds under the bottom of the sea. It was also home to a thriving community with one of the highest population densities ever recorded on earth. Gunkanjima’s fortunes started on a downhill slide in the late 1960s when Japan’s economy soared and petroleum replaced coal as the pillar of national energy schemes. Coal mines across the country began to close. Mitsubishi slashed the work force at Gunkanjima step by step, retraining workers and sending them off to other branches of its sprawling industrial network. The coup de grace came on 15 January 1974, when the company held a ceremony in the island gymnasium and officially announced the closing of the mine.
Yves and Romain’s series of Theatres was born out of the 5 years they spent photographing Detroit for their critically acclaimed first body of work The Ruins of Detroit. Noticing the sorry state of many of the movie theatres they came across they began to investigate beyond Detroit and found that this was the case all across America. Many of the theatres date from the golden age of American film when the big studios competed to build extravagant venues to entice and thrill their audiences. Sadly over time multiplexes and shopping malls made these theatres redundant and inevitably they fell into disrepair. Many were converted into a multitude of purposes ranging from churches, retail space, flea markets, bingo halls, discos, supermarkets, gymnasiums, or warehouses, and often with comical results! Some remain relatively unchanged, while others clash with their newfound purpose creating unexpected spaces which act as a fascinating documents of American History.
Over the past twelve years Marchand and Meffre have developed a rigorous approach to their work which has produced staggering results. Shooting with a large format, custom made camera, taking advantage of natural light and using long exposures, the images embody the unique atmosphere of each location. Their photographs retain a formal quality and are conceived as a document, giving the viewer a glimpse of a buildings former glory. “Ruins are the visible symbols and landmarks of our societies and their changes, small pieces of history in suspension.”