Memorializing Motor City


Philip Jarmain’s American Beauty series documents the architectural wonders of Detroit:

“What I’m trying to do is document these buildings carefully and with craft,” Jarmain says. “The buildings are part of a history filled with ingenuity, innovation and entrepreneurship. They’re part of a record that is about brilliant minds coming together to create the capitalist frontier and the middle class of America.” … Many famous architects, such as Albert Kahn, helped the city become an architectural hub, and Jarmain’s title, American Beauty, is named after Kahn’s American Beauty Iron Building. Even though Detroit is shrinking and structures are being destroyed almost daily, it still has one of the country’s best collections of late 19th- and early 20th century buildings.

Jarmain says he tries not to judge the city for demolishing structures in an effort to shrink its enormous urban footprint. He also understands people are stripping the buildings because they desperately need money or supplies. He just wants to make sure he can get as many buildings recorded as he can before they disappear.

(Photo of Kahn’s Belle Isle Aquarium by Philip Jarmain)