"Hunting Detroit’s Masterworks of Architecture Before They Go Extinct
JOHN METCALFE. Oct 11, 2013
Though Detroit has recently been looking like it was hit by a convoy of mile-wide firenados, there remain signs of architectural grandeur illustrating why it was once known as the Paris of the Midwest. Perhaps nowhere is this faded beauty more palpable than in the large-format photography of Philip Jarmain, a Vancouver native who’s spent three years shooting Detroit’s sublime edifices, sometimes just months before they were wiped out by bulldozers.
Jarmain may be from Canada, but he has century-old family ties to Detroit and extreme respect for the place. “At one point this was probably the most important city in the world in terms of innovation, craftsmanship, and manufacturing,” he says, adding that one of his childhood heroes was Henry Ford. “It was just such an incredible city in the early 1900s, and obviously things went horribly sideways at some point.”
When the 41-year-old advertising photographer started hearing disturbing rumblings in 2008, he decided to venture south to document the city’s Art Deco and Neo-Classical past before something horrible happened (well, even more horrible than the riots and urban decay). So he hooked up with local historian Sean Doerr of Buildings of Detroit fame, and set out to locate what he calls the “iconic Detroit architectural masterpieces” hidden in a crumbling labyrinth of 80,000 to 100,000 abandoned buildings.”
Photo: Eastown Theatre. Phillip Jarmain