Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Urbexing on a Grand Scale & Theatrics in Detroit

On day 2 we were itching to get into Packard which is the largest abandoned factory in the world. For me this place was the biggest draw, I couldn't start to conceive how big the place was. We knew that there'd be little left of any machinery or car parts but just the being there was the most important, standing in the middle of this massive abandonment and feeling its vastness, huge, desolate and empty.
 We passed a few cool photo opportunities on the way and then we arrived.
 The place was enormous. Click here for an article containing aerial and past photos.
 We parked and just walked in. There were a few other photographers around but we pretty much had the place to ourselves. The car above was likely burned out and left by vandals, it's not a vintage relic.
 Margie had Furbex, her stuffed cat, with her which happily slept through every portrait shot.
 The place was huge and rambling with so many wrecked and crumbling buildings that it resembled a war zone. We'd heard that there could be predators who cruised the site so we all kept together.
 Portrait photos of the crew. It was freezing weather with a chill breeze that bit as it blew around pillars and through open holes and doorways. We were all dressed in layers and I really wished I'd brought hand warmers with me. My urbexing gloves were too thin for warmth.
I loved the graffiti, it helped to brighten up the place. We got to know some of the most prolific taggers, GASM and Elmer often appeared side by side, and seemed to have marked virtually every abandoned building in town.
 These are wooden blocks which used to form a floor but the constant flooding has freed them from the concrete sub floor underneath so they appear OK to walk on but are actually floating about an inch or so above the concrete. I smiled to myself as I noticed Emily out of the corner of my eye give them a try and then quickly step back.
 Taggers at work. They have to be addicted to their craft to be willing to spend hours outside in the freezing cold. It was actually starting to rain with heavy black clouds overhead as I took this photo.
 Margie took this one of me walking and trying to ignore the frigid cold. She thought it looked like an album cover. Desolate Distress?
 On the way out, Emily and I spotted a guy unlocking a door on the factory site and then disappear inside a building. We wondered whether he was a homeless guy having selected a part of the old site to be his home, and then I came across this article.
As we walked to the car, a guy cycling stopped and chatted. John was an army medic, suffering from post traumatic stress after 3 tours but was very chatty, saying he knew the area like the back of his hand and was known by all. He pointed out the seedy motel by the plant and the bridge, (in first plant photo above) saying they'd featured in the Transformers 3 movie. He suggested a couple of places for us to check out and then cycled off again with a cheery smile and wave.
 More cool things seen on the way to the next shoot.
Our next stop was the Eastown Theatre, abandoned in 2004 after being used by a church which tried to raise money for renovations by renting out the apartments that belonged to the theater. It was not a successful venture and then a fire in 2010 caused heavy damage to the building so it is now slated for demolition. The history of the theater can be found here.
 We were surprised to find that even despite the fire, it was still easy to imagine the majesty decoration and adornment of the theater. The stage was still standing, beautiful, tall carved arches reached up to peeling ceilings where there were still painted plaster carvings visible.
 Someone had staged some of the old chairs down at the front, and instead of the usual scorn that is voiced when these obvious set ups are discovered, there was a melancholy feeling of sadness evoked by the solitary row of seats, almost as if ghosts of a past audience were patiently waiting for a final performance.
 Only one set of curtains had survived the fire and decay.
 I was a amazed at the fabulous condition of some of the ceiling yet surprised that nobody wanted to save this piece of Detroit's past..
 Up on the balcony was a little precarious, we didn't walk to the front. There was a projector room, devoid of anything except a table and a crumpled piece of film.
 A couple more cool photo ops. The boat was acting as a gate, presumably because the actual gates had been stolen. Just a few yards down was another opening to the yard, also sealed with a boat. These boats can be found all over the city, maybe because it's likely to be expensive to dump an old boat at the local tip, so much cheaper and easier to leave it somewhere in the city, where it soon gets covered by graffiti. And the city can't afford to collect them all and dispose of them properly. It would actually be a nice little photo project to create a gallery of Detroit's abandoned boats.
 We stopped at this flooded street with nearly every house boarded up and abandoned, except Jerome's. He's standing here in front of his wife's house; his wife had been murdered recently, the killer was still on the loose. Jerome had promised his wife he'd look after the house she'd grown up in and keep on to the council to get the street cleared up. He thought we were from the government because of our cameras. He's a marine also suffering from post traumatic stress, yet like John, showed no bitterness despite his condition, and was extremely friendly. We wished him luck.
 A few streets down we ran into this neighborhood.
 The houses were gaily decorated but we weren't sure if anyone lived in them. We got out and walked along the deserted street. but within minutes we were all heavily spooked as guys started walking out from the sides of the houses towards us, just like zombies. They were also curious wanting to know why we were there but with the dusk only minutes away and the overwhelming feeling of being in a B horror movie, we made our excuses and scuttled towards the safety of the car. It was time for a beer, or a few...

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