Decaying Cities in the United States | Detroit, Michigan and Braddock, Pennsylvania

April 8, 2013 Travis Dewitz

When I travel to areas of great recession, decay, and abandonment around the Unites States I truly feel bad  that I went mainly capture the decay. I always photograph the good and positive as well when I am in these cities but I’m drawn to the bad. I think for me it is about shooting something that is much different from what I can see easily near me in Wisconsin. I try to capture the usually strong feel I get when I’m there. I want to show how I feel through my photos. As an outsider coming into cities like Detroit and Braddock, I felt an overwhelming feeling of darkness and hopelessness. I had completely different feelings between Detroit and Braddock. Detroit I see a lot more hope, I saw a strong revolt against failing. They are definitely on their hands and knees slowly trying to push forward. Braddock is dead. The only heartbeat left in Braddock is the steel mill, a steel mill that doesn’t employ a single Braddock resident. It isn’t that the steel mill doesn’t hire local workers, it is that the steel mill’s workers move away from Braddock. The Edgar Thomson steel mill can be seen from almost anywhere you are in Braddock, the mill is Braddock. I did not see any hope for Braddock, 90% of the population is gone and I don’t foresee any of them coming back. I think that Braddock has an incredible mayor that is working very hard to save his city and I hope he wins.

Detroit gave me a different feel. It is also full of abandoned lots, decaying homes, burnt out houses and entire industrial complexes that are standing empty. The scale and number of abandonments in Detroit is mind numbing but there is a lot of good mixed in between the bad. That mixture makes a big difference compared to having complete areas of devastation like the coal towns in Southwestern West Virginia. Another thing that helps is that Detroit also has an incredible mix of architectural styles that adds so much interest and beauty to the city. The beauty of some of the these building completely overcomes  the fire damage or decay. You don’t even notice it until you really look closer, almost a double take at times for me. But seeing abandoned skyscrapers really can mentally break a person. It is these building that are built to survive that now stand empty which made me realize how hard Detroit really was hit. It appears downtown Detroit has made a strong comeback from the research I have done which I hope they continue. Enjoy my images below and visit the links below to see more.

Detroit Fire Station 23

Abandoned Detroit Cathedral

Homes in Detroit’s Mansion District

Historic Home in Detroit

Artwork Along the Grand River Creative Corridor Project

Old Cadillac Hood Ornament With a Graffiti Backdrop

More photos from my Detroit Photography Project.



Virgin Mary in Braddock, PA

Steel Mill off Braddock Ave.

Steel City Pawn Brokers in Braddock

Former Site of the UPMC Braddock Hospital

US Steel Edgar Thomson Plant at Dawn

View of a Braddock Church Through an Alley

Castle Like Historic Home in Braddock

More photos from my Braddock Photography Project.

Through the creative lens of Travis Dewitz; he demonstrates time and time again how much splendor can be extracted from the interplay of the industrial world around us. In the most unusual and unexpected places Dewitz showcases images that embody the forgotten beauty of railways, factory floors, the rolling smoke of steel mills, and the cities that are built around them. He brings a certain magic as he invokes the very souls of these once-glorious industrial areas; his captures overflow with inspirational energy. Click here to view his personal series.

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Travis Dewitz

My name is Travis Dewitz and I am from Eau Claire, Wisconsin. My specialty is commercial photography with a love for expressive portraits. My work is Conceptual, Emotive, Editorial, Surreal and Eclectic. I am passionate about fashioning new worlds through photographs as I extend my visions beyond the realm of the camera. I have incredible vision, which you can see in all of my photos.

Comments (4)

  1. Elisse Jo Goldstein-Clark

    You actually made it look Less depressing that it is in “real life”. Gary, Indiana, Flint & Detroit, Michigan, and Chicago, Illinois are now, in great measure, no-go zones of deadly drive-by danger that have deteriorated into anarchy. (Several years ago when I worked in northern Indiana I was informed that Gary was “the most dangerous city in America”; the last supermarket in the city had closed that week). I hope they can “come back”, but it would take some serious & passionate “sweat equity” & investment by the people who live there, and I don’t see that happening. Sadly, at this time nothing would get us to go to any of them, and it’s utterly heartbreaking, because we well remember them- not so long ago- as great cities. If ever there was an illustration of the “decline and fall”, it’s photos of these once-great cities.

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