The Tragic Aesthetic

Architecture & Interiors

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For the people of Detroit, the abandoned houses that proliferate like weeds in some neighborhoods, are not beautiful, but rather – as photographer Kevin Bauman argues – "maddening and/or depressing."

Yet for those of us fortunate enough not to live in these neighborhoods, we have the luxury to appreciate the aesthetic beauty of these crumbling structures.  Bauman has been documenting the 'slow death' of these homes before they disappear into dust.  His photographs of these once elegant houses are like stoic portraits of aging aristocrats struggling vainly to keep up a proud face in the face of their inevitable decline.   

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Bauman's project, 100 abandoned houses, gathers 100 of his house portraits into a series presented as a grid that reinforces the numbing relentless nature of Detroit's decline.  There is beauty in destruction, but perhaps not for the people of Detroit.  Nobody is more aware of this paradox than Bauman himself who spent so much time documenting the tragic beauty of these abandoned homes.  For this reason, Bauman donates much of the profits from selling his photos to organizations that fight against exactly this kind of urban decline.

Buy a print and save a neighborhood.  Okay, maybe that's overselling it, but Bauman has found a smart way of combining his aesthetic interests with social action.  Plus he takes beautiful photographs. 
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1 Comment

  1. stephanie clayton

    Jul 25, 2009 at 7:58 am

    there’s something so sadly beautiful about crumbling architecture, where people once lived, visited, laughed, cried…
    tragic indeed.
    i’ll check out more of bauman’s project at the link shown.

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