Archive Page 2

The Reaches of Nature

Strada’s Barbecue
saintpeg (From Detroit’s Sacred Places Flickr Photo Contest)
When I first moved to Detroit twelve years ago, I would spend weekends driving the streets of my newly-adopted home, trying to find my bearings and learn the neighborhoods. One thing that struck me then repeatedly, and continues to impress upon me now, was that one could always find nature thriving amidst abandonded and decaying structures. This photograph of a tree reaching out from a shuttered building seems to me to reaffirm the resilience of the natural world. I can almost imagine a seed landing inside the building gate, sprouting and growing with the available sunlight, its slender branches finding openings in the gate and escaping the confines of the building, until the tree appears now an integral part of the structure.

Among Kenro Izu’s haunting photographs of the temples of Angkor Wat are images that show mammoth trees invading, and sometimes toppling, ancient stone structures. Here, the power of nature seems more gentle, but no less assertive.

I enjoyed seeing this photograph and reading your thoughts about the sacred moment. Thank you for posting it.


Tiger Stadium – The Final Days

tigerstadium_construction 081, piblanks2005

(From Detroit’s Sacred Places Flickr Photo Contest)

Writer Jack Lessenberry recently referred to Tiger Stadium as a “cathedral of America’s national pastime” (see – for more information on the preservation of the stadium). Many people may think of sacred sites as places with religious bearings, but in our short-lived American history, many of us are hard pressed not to feel a sense of desecration over places, albeit of a secular nature, that have influenced and shaped our collective identity, particularly as Detroiters.

Tiger Stadium has seen the better side of a wrecking ball over the last few weeks. This image attempts to preserve, in very simple terms, a last glimpse of that sacred ground. But when I look at this picture, I can’t help sensing that the stadium seems to know its fate while it sits there patiently and quietly awaiting the inevitable. -nb

Psychological Sacred Place

 tEdGuY49® (From Detroit’s Sacred Places Flickr Group)

To me, this image has more to do with the psychological aspect of what is considered a sacred place. I think the photograph is very interesting and shows a sort of cultural geography. It shows the history of humankind – in relationship to its place and culture.

I also like that the fact this photograph shows both physical and psychological evidence of the human struggle, the successes and failures and in some way shows the beauty that lies beneath the image. The beauty in this photograph appears to be not simply about the surface reality of the situation, but more to do with an inner narrative, when you look more closely, it is as beautiful as it is simply spooky or unsettling.

I really enjoy the style of photography, straight/ face-on/ documentary style to approach the subject. The detail of the image is excellent, peeling paint, broken windows, rusted metals, and winter color earth. The separation between background and subject is very effective. I like that fact that the image was taken with an overcast or foggy sky. This sets not only the mood of the photograph, but also sets the focus and gives the viewer a chance to examine the subject, in this case the house. This style reminds me of series of water tower photographs made by Bernd & Hilla Becher.

I appreciate this kind of sensitivity. Thank you very much for posting this beautiful image!

Updated Prizes!

We’re just thrilled with your response to the contest so far and have decided to add a little more to the prize pool!

The winner of the contest will now receive prizes including a signed copy of Izu’s Bhutan: The Sacred Within, two front-row seats to Izu’s lecture on September 14, 2008, admission for two to the post-lecture strolling supper, and a DIA Companion Membership!! There will be an additional prize given to the second place photo including a signed copy of Bhutan as well as a DIA Companion Membership.  

Keep up the great work folks!

The Heidelberg Project, Detroit


(From Detroit’s Sacred Places Flickr Group)

Thank you for posting this image of The Heidelberg Project – it is a unique site to Detroit, and I hope to see more of this type of imagery in the competition. I once read a quote by THP’s creator Tyree Guyton that this project is not simply art but more “like medicine. You can’t heal the land until you heal the minds of the people.” Its tough to communicate the aesthetic, social, and cultural complexities/impact of this site in just one picture, and there are many interesting photographs of THP on

With available light as well as the glimpse of the house roofline at the lower right and the totem-like structure, actually a tree on the left, you have carefully composed visual information from this site in a unique way expressing its “essence”, as Kenro Izu would say. You give the viewer just enough information to discern the subject – at least if you know Detroit well, – and perhaps to viewers who are not familiar with the city, the photograph may provoke further investigation. So the picture stands out from some of the others in this respect.

For those individuals out there who may not know about it ,The Heidelberg Project is a Detroit treasure conceived by artist Tyree Guyton. It began a little over twenty years ago when Guyton turned an abandoned crack house in his neighborhood on Heidelberg Street (on Detroit’s east side) into a public art installation. Check out their website for maps and news about it at FYI – the latest news on The Heidelberg Project – it is one of 15 projects selected to represent the U.S. in the 2008 Biennale Architecture exhibition Sept. 14 through Nov. 23 in Venice, Italy.

Remains of Greatness

remains of greatnessbuckshot.jones

(From the Detroit’s Sacred Places Flickr Group)

This photograph reminds me of Kenro Izu’s print of the ruined city of Vijayanagar in India. In his photograph of the once-magnificent Hindu “City of Victory,” Izu contrasts small stones (likely piled up by pilgrims) in the foreground against remnants of 15th century stone temples in the distance. Here, building blocks of the venerated automobile are strewn in a forgotten pile a short distance away from crumbling houses. The treatment of the light in the two photographs are very different, but the feeling of reverence for the place is, to me, the same, as is, perhaps, a hope for transcendance?

Thank you for posting.

Canine sentry – around the world

Snow Dog – Belle Isle, Detroit, Bill Schwab
(From Detroit’s Sacred Places Flickr Group)

Seeing this evocative image sent me on a mental journey half way around the world – to Tokyo, where a famous sculpture of a faithful dog resides. In the 1920s, Hachiko, an Akita, met his owner Professor Ueno every day at the train station as he returned from teaching at the University of Tokyo. Even after the professor took ill and passed away at work one day in 1925, Hachiko returned every day for ten years to the station, waiting for his owner. Hachiko became famous throughout Japan for his devotion, and in 1934 a bronze sculpture in his likeness was erected at the Shibuya station where he kept sentry. Today, the exit closest to Hachiko’s sculpture is known as the “Hachiko exit,” and is a very popular meeting spot.

I walked by Hachiko’s sculpture many times on my last trip to Tokyo, but now I can’t help but wonder – is the “Hachiko exit” sacred ground for any of the hundreds of young people milling about the sculpture waiting for friends? And what is the story behind this sculpture of a dog on Belle Isle, braving the snow here so patiently? I would really like to know its history.
Thank you, Bill, for posting this photo.

Flickr Photos

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