Feral Church #2
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"Feral" means reversion to a wild state, as from domestication. It comes from the Latin root fera, for wild beast, but it also has a connection to another Latin word, feralis, literally "belonging to the dead." Though it is usually used to describe animals, I have wondered if "feral" couldn't also be used to describe certain buildings here in Detroit. For a few beautiful months every summer, some of the tens of thousands of abandoned buildings become feral in every sense: they disappear behind ivy or the untended shrubs and trees planted generations ago as decoration. Even churches are not immune. The neighborhood churches and cathedrals that once served Detroit's diverse communities now serve mainly as a symbol of the city's incredible population loss. While a few have managed to survive decades of congregant flight, others have been adopted by new congregations and new faiths. Sadly, many beautiful churches and synagogues have fallen into ruin. The church in this photograph has served as a funeral home, and most recently as a social services organization. While not a ruin, today it sits empty, with invasive vines stretching to seal its front doors. As the neighborhoods of Detroit disappear, nature flourishes. I am interested in the duplicity of plant life in Detroit as both blindly innocent and somehow deeply sinister. In other cities, meticulously groomed and maintained ivy-covered walls are a symbol of social elitism. In Detroit, ivy flourishes as a symbol of neglect and the indomitable spirit of nature, even on houses built for gods.
James Griffioen | See All Editions
In 2006, James Griffioen walked away from a career as a successful securities lawyer at a large San Francisco law firm and moved his family to downtown Detroit, where he no longer practices law but instead spends his days taking care of his two children and taking photographs. He publishes a blog about his life in Detroit called Sweet Juniper. His photos have appeared in Harper's, Vice, Time, New York, Re:Public (Sweden), Landscape Architecture and many other publications. He has been featured on American Public Media's "The Story," CBC's arts program "Q," NPR's "On the Media" and CNN, as well as the Chicago Tribune, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post.
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