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Review: De Troit and Henri Cartier-Bresson

D. Eric Bookhardt on photography show by Joseph Crachiola and Cartier-Bresson

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Detroit's decline has long been in the news, and despite recent glimmers of hope, its future is still unclear. Once a booming manufacturing hub, Motor City's long, slow journey in reverse took it to the dark side of the American Dream, a bleak dystopia not unlike what New Orleans might have become if post-Hurricane Katrina rebuilding had completely failed. Detroit photographer Joseph Crachiola has recorded his city since 1971, depicting not only its blighted homes and factories but also the vibrancy seen in some animated children playing with a lost grocery cart in Cherry Street, 1973, or in blues singer Sippie Wallace seated in a wheelchair at her piano, belting out a song in 1986. But there also is a stark soulfulness in his views of rotting abandoned homes like Baby Doll House (pictured), where discarded dolls adorn windows in an attempt to get the attention of city demolition crews. (It worked.) In another surreal image on display at Scott Edwards Gallery, a large replica of a cow's head atop an abandoned ice cream stand looks totemic, like a mysterious artifact unearthed by archaeologists. Here its suggestion of a lost civilization is a cautionary reminder of what happens when endemic neglect runs its course unchecked.

  A different kind of street photography appears in the work of the late Henri Cartier-Bresson at A Gallery for Fine Photography, where a stellar sampling of his greatest hits, and some less familiar images, is on view. In Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare, Paris, 1932, we see a classic example of his approach as a man, seemingly suspended in midair, hops across the mirrorlike surface of a puddle in which his form is perfectly reflected. For Bresson, time and space are a dynamic continuum where the decisive moment is always now, and this pristine composition illustrates how a single moment, if perfectly realized, can epitomize all that is timeless and infinite.

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