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_____ A PHOTOGRAPHIC PROJECT BY RYAN SPENCER REED

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INTRODUCTION

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These are not the ruins of Rome, nor the tombs of Egypt. While the echoes of the past resonate, this community is extinguishing in the present. The story of Detroit is one of the most significant representations of a nation in transition. As a photographer, it is the place where I began an anthropological exploration in the spring of 2009, and continue today through a kind of architectural archaeology. This is a story about things left behind painted with a heavy heart - a story told amidst the death of the American Industrial Revolution.

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APPARITIONS OF EMPIRE

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This is a metaphor - an American story; evolving rapidly as it remains caught in the wake of unsustainable business practices and policy following the aftermath of World War II. Nearly devoid of the human form, these images unveil an adaptation of the phrase, the Arsenal of Democracy, because the city of Detroit, and all that it symbolized, no longer resembles any such thing. The term is more befitting of the nationstate more broadly disseminating values, and placing much focus of policy, globally.

These images are a product of a pilgrimage to rediscover things left behind through the dim and murky light of history. Some are filled with symbols while others are simply about conveying mood. They are an attempt to tell a story of a nation amidst the death of the American Industrial Revolution, when ambitions of empire and the specter of hubris pull at a superpower in transition – at odds with itself and gasping for compass beyond the precipice of shifting paradigm.

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After the war, US factories returned to making civilian products. With little global competition, as a result of having the only industrial complex to have survived the war, the country was ushered through a period of unprecedented growth and unsustainable profits during the 20 years following the Great War. And, while many US companies received contracts to rebuild the infrastructures of other nations, American industrial infrastructure outgrew the economic foundation of demand that would need to support it once the rest of the world’s factories came back online.

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Once the US economy began to plateau through the mid 1960s, some two decades of prosperity had shifted expectations and created a false positive of what was possible for the American Dream. Most concluded that those years were the norm and ultimately something had to be done to sustain those levels of growth. Wall Street's demand for continued positive quarterly company reports drove many boardrooms to look to labor for additional profit margins. The trend of outsourcing, off shoring, selling off, and eventual dismantling of the American industrial complex, reflected an underlying shift in values within American society.

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For generations, the economy has attempted to outrun a much needed correction to American expectations and way of life. The chain of events has caused the country to prematurely end to its industrial revolution leaving behind a systemic stigma that there is little honor left in working with one's hands as an American. The society must learn to cope with a legacy of power, dominance, and hubris. If this story is symbolic of a country’s misspent youth, then the revelation of peak oil, and the long overdue correction to the bubbles that formed following the Great War mark the harsh wakeup call that is adulthood. Recent economic volatility casts an ominous tone over a great many civilizations that aspire to the American level of opulence.

Detroit was a monolith of human achievement. Few cities have had more influence on the growth of a civilization. Few cities have so rapidly fallen from grace. As an economic bellwether, she now lives a cautionary tale for all those great cities that danced to Motown’s lead, and are most likely doomed to follow in her footsteps. What remains is a drained and evaporated city landscape; haunting, seductive and alive with ghosts.

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TRAVELING EXHIBITION

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- 27 framed museum quality photographs -

- Ranging in size from: 24” x 16”--24” x 57” -

- All ship in a custom crate with text panels -

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LIMITED EDITION TIN

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An expansive book-length miniature exhibition on luxurious archival cotton rag sheets in pure carbon ink, numbered, signed, & embossed; presented in an aluminum surgical tin procured from a Detroit military surplus store.

Edition of 99 with one artist proof - $450

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PHOTOGRAPHS

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Like the structures depicted, the photographs are intended as artifacts of beauty, time, and consequence. For that reason, I chose to capture this body of work using film and cameras that, like their subject, were built without any planned obsolescence. Ironically, both have found themselves in a world that struggles to justify practical uses for them. I find this turn intriguing and discover solace in knowing that some of the last images made of these buildings will have been created with an archival permanence in mind through a medium and mechanism befitting their vintage. Nearly devoid of the human form, these photographs leverage the language of anonymity and metaphor to unveil the Arsenal of Democracy as it remains in the wake of unsustainable business practices following the aftermath of World War Two.

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CONTACT PHOTOGRAPHER

FOR INQUIRIES REGARDING SPEAKING, EXHIBITIONS, PRINTS, OR COMMISSIONS

www.ryanspencerreed.com

+1.202.810.3075

photo@ryanspencerreed.com

CONNECT:

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Created By
Ryan Spencer Reed
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Credits:

All photographs and text ©Ryan Spencer Reed 2016 / All rights reserved

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