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Julia Reyes Taubman: Detroit: 138 Square Miles Hardcover – December 31, 2011

3.9 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Ultimately, this mix of images and the receptions they stimulate is what sets Taubman's book apart from compilations of ruin porn. She reminds readers of the people who were employed by and served by the derelict factories and schools shown herein, who live in the houses that remain and in the houses that used to occupy what now are vacant lots. Yet, even these compassionately framed photographs freeze their subjects in time and isolate them from narrative context: it is simply the nature of the medium.
With any luck, this exquisitely packaged collection of images might inspire some real action and positive answers. It might spark philanthropy and investment. Perhaps artists will see it and move to Detroit, where they can find the sort of inexpensive spaces that Brooklyn used to offer. Or it might stir local pride, assail apathy and arouse curiosity. There's only so much a book of pictures can do, however. This one does its part. The rest is up to those who look inside the covers. (Janet Tyson Cassone)

'Detroit: 138 Square Miles' by Julia Reyes Taubman just may be one of the finest photo documentary books of a modern America ever produced. It takes us into some of this country's finest stuctures built at a time when Detroit stood as a symbol to the world of American ingenuity and a testament to the possibilities of mankind. Not only does it celebrate this great city, it humanizes it, and gives us its people along with its places.
If you like cities, you'll love this book. (Jason Sheftell Daily News)

A thorough, meticulous survey, the book not only captures the destruction but finds factories still puffing out smoke. The swaths of urban prairie are punctuated by scenes of citizens in bars abd bowling alleys. An image of an east-side neighborhood shows stuffed animals tied to a utility pole in a style synonymous with makeshift memorials - a reminder that the ghost city exists allongside one still fighting for its life. (Editors The Wall Street Journal)

She’d spent seven years taking pictures of abandoned buildings and other derelict tableaux... She took thirty-five thousand photographs and chose four hundred. They make you want to go there but maybe not stay. (Nick Paumgarten The New Yorker)

Of the extensive books of photographs published about Detroit in the past year that present―Ms. Taubman’s Detroit: 138 Square Miles (Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, 480 pages, $65.00, Dec. 31, 2011) is the first to document the city and its flaws, but also to demonstrate that, for better or worse, there is life among those ruins. (Micheal H Miller The Observer)

The end product, the book itself, belies criticism that this is a socialite's vanity project. It bears sober witness to Detroit's greatness and its status as forgotten city ― authentic, harshly treated, evolving rapidly as its housing stock crumbles and its once-heroic monuments fall to fire, wrecking ball and neglect. (Laura Berman The Detroit News)

...enormous, impressive photography book (Mike Vilensky The Wall Street Journal)

Although she didn’t intend to create a book when she started, the results of her obsession with documenting the city in all its faded glory have now been collected in a substantial, exquisitely produced volume, Detroit: 138 Square Miles (MoCAD). (Ted Loos Vogue)

About the Author

Elmore Leonard wrote more than forty books during his long career, including the bestsellers Raylan, Tishomingo Blues, Be Cool, Get Shorty, and Rum Punch, as well as the acclaimed collection When the Women Come Out to Dance, which was a New York Times Notable Book. Many of his books have been made into movies, including Get Shorty and Out of Sight. The short story "Fire in the Hole," and three books, including Raylan, were the basis for the FX hit show Justified. Leonard received the Lifetime Achievement Award from PEN USA and the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America. He died in 2013.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Museum of Contemporary Art, Detroit (December 31, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0982389604
  • ISBN-13: 978-0982389607
  • Product Dimensions: 2.2 x 11 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #418,516 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The greatest irony of all regarding the reviews of this book is that, like the book itself, the debate found here IS Detroit. This is coming from an outsider who didn't grow up in Michigan and loves the city and all its faults, drama, anger, anxiety, achievement, and people. It is, in my opinion, the last quintessential American city.

The book captures this. It is by far one of the most even-handed assessments I've seen, and because it doesn't "shock" the viewer (I think a good word would be "entice"), it demands a lot more from you. I like how one critic derisively called it "ruin porn" - as if ANY collection of contemporary photographs of Detroit can avoid showing physical deterioration - when in reality it doesn't fetishize the physical condition in nearly as entrepreneurial manner as other Detroit books floating around. There is a human side to these photos which isn't found in cheesy pseudo-photojournalistic efforts. It treats the physical as inseparable from the spiritual: both are found in these pages.

After living in Michigan for a while, I've concluded that no one is ever going to produce a book, film, piece of music, or any other art form which can encapsulate what Detroit is all about. It must be seen and breathed and lived to be understood. It is an intoxicating and confusing place, with no equal anywhere. This book nails it. In many ways, the debate this book has created here only contributes to Detroit's legacy, because the city encourages it.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A hefty book, well made. The photographs are stunning. Definitely worth the price if you're into that kind of thing. My only complaint is that the photos aren't captioned; you have to go to an index of thumbnails in the back to read the caption (if there is one at all). Silly way to do a book of photographs if you're going to leave copious whitespace around the pictures anyway.

And there aren't even any page numbers on the photo pages. So if you're just leafing through the book and want to know about a picture that caught your attention, you have to leaf through the thumbnail caption pages until you possibly find the thumbnail which might or might not be there because not every picture got a thumbnail and even if there is a thumbnail it might or might not have any information about the photograph.

I mean really. Imagine a museum of any kind where there is no identification for the objects on display, and you had to leave that room and go to a room in the basement to see if maybe there is a tiny picture of the object to find out about it. Once you've found that tiny picture if it even exists there and read its caption if there even is one, you go back upstairs to resume your browsing.

The photographer did an amazing job. Whoever designed and laid out the book should never be hired to work on such a project again.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The photos are really nice in this book... but it is "arduous" to go to the back of the book to see what you're looking at.
Plus it's very heavy when leaving through it. Glad I had amazon PRIMe - because I hate to think what shipping would have been.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I just got Ms.Taubman's book and I have to admit I am disappointed. It is a large book with an enormous amount of pictures. While I found many of the photographs well taken and a few even stunning, most are rather mediocre, especially when compared to other recent collections of Detroit photographs. It almost feels like the photographer is trying to make up for suboptimal quality of the photographs with a large number. Many of the pictures are poorly composed and some out of focus and not in a way that can be considered to enhance the shot and this gives the book an amateurish feel. The format, especially the photos spanning a page and a half with a large unused white space is particularly irritating and so is the lack of information adjacent to each photo. Despite these shortcomings, I enjoyed the book as an enthusiast for urban photography and I will keep it. Many of the bleak and desolate winter shots are strangely fascinating and the book covers many areas previously uncovered by other similar books. I would have liked to give the book a better review but in fact, a little googling will provide you with similar Detroit photographs for free and often of better quality with more information.
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Format: Hardcover
Julia Reyes Taubman's "Detroit 138 Square Miles" is a masterpiece! Finally, someone gets my Detroit! I was born and raised in Detroit by my single Mother, who worked for 37 years for General Motors at their worldheadquarters' building on Grand Blvd. I was a stage and lighting teacher at Cass Tech, Cody and Cooley High Schools 35 years ago. I purchased two books as gifts for my Mother and my wife of 34 years, also a life long Detroiter, after hearing Reyes Taubman speak on the Paul W. Smith WJR show. My family spent a weekend devouring the book and have since ordered 10 more copies for our close friends, who have now moved out of Michigan. These photos are gritty, beautiful, haunting, emotional, stunning and an incredible work of art. The texture and material of the books' cover is amazing. As graduates of Cooley and Cody High, we have to say our two favorite photos are on Pages 327 and 328. Julia, you should be very proud of your work as it captures the Detroit we know and love with incredible detail and beauty. Bravo!
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