Kevin Bauman’s Sublime Decay

People are hard to find in Kevin Bauman’s photographs, but they are there if viewers relax, maybe squint a bit, and open their minds. You will see them in each frame, transparent echoes in his native Detroit photos: children running up now-crumbling steps after their first day at school, young men in khaki kissing their sweethearts in the broken-windowed Michigan Central Station before their last train ride to the Atlantic and war, and muscular veterans swinging drag chains in the cavernous, crumbling Fisher Body 21 facility.
Those people are gone, but our imagination can’t help but put them there. We know they lived prosperous lives in Detroit because Bauman has spent over ten years chronicling structures they’ve left us, and continues to do so with a balance of art, technology, honest delicacy, and reluctant indictment of a system gone wrong.
Detroit was the fourth largest United States city in 1950. Since that time, due to the the ever-shrinking U.S. auto industry, it has lost half it’s population; approximately one-million residents. The city itself covers an astounding 143 square miles, and as entire neighborhoods are depopulated, their structures decay and fall, opening vast tracts of urban prairie. It is amid this background Bauman finds his personal project bliss.
Although an accomplished photographer in several genres, Kevin Bauman receives the most attention for his series entitled 100 Abandoned Houses. It has caused him to be profiled by The New York Times [http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/09/garden/09online.html?_r=1&ref=garden], ABC World News [http://abcnews.go.com/video/playerindex?id=8313586], and AOL [http://home.aol.com/new_in_home/photogallerytall/_a/detroits-abandoned-houses/20090428114509990002?feeddeeplinkNum=0], among many others. Purposely shot in from a uniform point of view at a wide enough angle to put the home in context. Everything from vacant lots to inhabited homes next door are shown to chart the woes of these once-grand Detroit residences.
Bauman sells prints of his work, giving one-third to organizations like Habitat for Humanity [http://www.habitat.org/] and The Greening of Detroit [http://www.greeningofdetroit.com/].
Michigan Central Station has been an ongoing subject of Bauman’s documentation of Detroit’s direction, this time in black and white. Often shooting at the slowest film speed possible and the lowest ISO, Bauman always uses a tripod.
“PocketWizards are pretty much a must-have,” he says of his standard gear. “In the old days I’d use those radio slaves. They’d go down and you’d have to run that stupid cord again to operate the lights. Then there were those synching lights. I often shoot in industrial settings. In some factories they have blinking lights on forklifts, and it would set those things off. I’d have to run down through the factory so the pack wouldn’t blow. PocketWizards are awesome, and have changed everything.”
When asked about any trouble he may have encountered in some of the sketchier neighborhoods he’s drawn to, Bauman says without hesitation, “Packs of dogs. It’s a known problem in Detroit. I don’t know if they’re runaways or abandoned by their owners, but they’re out there. I was shooting one day and about eight of them starting coming toward me, and they were not coming for fun. I kept the tripod and camera in front of me and made it back to the car.”
Always carefully aware of his surroundings and non-canine threats, Bauman reports people are generally friendly and interested in what he’s doing while shooting. “Sometimes people ask me if I’m from the city, and am I photographing an abandoned house because it’s scheduled for demolition. Unfortunately, I can’t help them, although they’re usually very pleasant to speak to.” As of this writing, he’s never had a physical assault or theft. When given verbal warnings, he’s happy to move along and come back at another time to get the shot he wants.
Bauman doesn’t shirk away from photographing people when called upon to do so for clients, such as when he documented school officials ten years after the Columbine tragedy [http://www.flickr.com/photos/kbauman/sets/72157617112122655/] for the American School Board Journal. On that assignment, he walked a fine line incorporating documentation, personal profile, respect for families involved, and yet not overwhelmingly depressing. Bauman used Profoto 7b generators to capture employees and the memorial under the ominous Colorado skies.
When shooting interiors for commercial work, he explains, “I light it, but light it so it’s minimal, or doesn’t look artificially lit at all.” Among these clients, he typically shoots for interior design firms, developers, and architectural firms. With his father being an architect, Bauman spent years reading architecture magazines, which helped him develop his style for this side of his photography business.
Along with his PocketWizards, Bauman has shot Mamiya RB67s and RZs. To move all his gear, Bauman has relied on Tenba rolling cases and Air Cases. “I’ve shot in some pretty nasty industrial locations — plants where they do anodizing and plating of metal, one-hundred twelve degree temperatures. They have vats of acid where they dip the metal in, steaming. The smells are horrible and everything is coated with stuff. The PocketWizards never stop working.”
www.kevinbauman.com http://www.kevinbauman.com
www.behance.com/kevinB http://www.behance.com/kevinB
www.themotorlesscity.com/ http://www.themotorlesscity.com/
www.themotorlesscity.com/photos/ http://www.themotorlesscity.com/photos/
www.flickr.com/photos/kbauman/ http://www.flickr.com/photos/kbauman/
100 Abandoned Houses: http://www100abandonedhouses.com
Selected Kevin Bauman Commercial Work: http://www.behance.net/KevinB/frame/212673
Kevin Bauman at Coroflot: http://www.coroflot.com/kbauman/crypton
http://www.coroflot.com/kbauman/interior_n_architectural_photography
The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/09/garden/09online.html?_r=1&ref=garden
ABC World News: http://abcnews.go.com/video/playerindex?id=8313586
Camera Obscura: http://cameraobscura.busdraghi.net/2009/contribute/kevin-bauman/
Really Good Magazine: http://reallygoodmagazine.com/?p=7705
AOL: http://home.aol.com/new_in_home/photogallerytall/_a/detroits-abandoned-houses/20090428114509990002?feeddeeplinkNum=0
Squidge Magazine: http://squidgemag.com/tag/100-abandoned-houses/
The 405: http://thefourohfive.com/articles/1805

People are hard to find in Kevin Bauman’s photographs, but they are there if viewers relax, maybe squint a bit, and open their minds. You will see them in each frame, transparent echoes in his native Detroit photos: children running up now-crumbling steps after their first day at school, young men in khaki kissing their sweethearts in the broken-windowed Michigan Central Station before their last train ride to the Atlantic and war, and muscular veterans swinging drag chains in the cavernous, disintegrating Fisher Body 21 facility.

©Kevin Bauman

©Kevin Bauman

Those people are gone, but our imagination can’t help but put them there. We know they lived prosperous lives in Detroit because Bauman has spent over ten years chronicling structures they’ve left us, and continues to do so with a balance of art, technology, honest delicacy, and reluctant indictment of a system gone wrong.

©Kevin Bauman

©Kevin Bauman

Detroit was the fourth largest United States city in 1950. Since that time, due to the the ever-shrinking U.S. auto industry, it has lost half it’s population; approximately one-million residents. The city itself covers an astounding 143 square miles, and as entire neighborhoods are depopulated, their structures decay and fall, opening vast tracts of urban prairie. It is amid this background Bauman finds his personal project bliss.

©Kevin Bauman

©Kevin Bauman

Although an accomplished photographer in several genres, Kevin Bauman receives the most attention for his series entitled 100 Abandoned Houses. It has caused him to be profiled by The New York Times, ABC World News, and AOL, among many others. Purposely shot in from a uniform point of view at a wide enough angle to put the home in context. Everything from vacant lots to inhabited homes next door are shown to chart the woes of these once-grand Detroit residences. Bauman sells prints of his work, giving one-third to organizations like Habitat for Humanity and The Greening of Detroit.

©Kevin Bauman

©Kevin Bauman

Michigan Central Station has been an ongoing subject of Bauman’s documentation of Detroit’s direction, this time in black and white. Often shooting at the slowest film speed possible and the lowest ISO, Bauman always uses a tripod.

©Kevin Bauman

©Kevin Bauman

©Kevin Bauman

©Kevin Bauman

“PocketWizards are pretty much a must-have,” he says of his standard gear. “In the old days I’d use those radio slaves. They’d go down and you’d have to run that stupid cord again to operate the lights. Then there were those synching lights. I often shoot in industrial settings. In some factories they have blinking lights on forklifts, and it would set those things off. I’d have to run down through the factory so the pack wouldn’t blow. PocketWizards are awesome, and have changed everything.”

©Kevin Bauman

©Kevin Bauman

When asked about any trouble he may have encountered in some of the sketchier neighborhoods he’s drawn to, Bauman says without hesitation, “Packs of dogs. It’s a known problem in Detroit. I don’t know if they’re runaways or abandoned by their owners, but they’re out there. I was shooting one day and about eight of them starting coming toward me, and they were not coming for fun. I kept the tripod and camera in front of me and made it back to the car.”

©Kevin Bauman

©Kevin Bauman

Always carefully aware of his surroundings and non-canine threats, Bauman reports people are generally friendly and interested in what he’s doing while shooting. “Sometimes people ask me if I’m from the city, and am I photographing an abandoned house because it’s scheduled for demolition. Unfortunately, I can’t help them, although they’re usually very pleasant to speak to.” As of this writing, he’s never had a physical assault or theft. When given verbal warnings, he’s happy to move along and come back at another time to get the shot he wants.

©Kevin Bauman

©Kevin Bauman

Bauman doesn’t shirk away from photographing people when called upon to do so for clients, such as when he documented school officials ten years after the Columbine tragedy for the American School Board Journal. On that assignment, he walked a fine line incorporating documentation, personal profile, respect for families involved, and yet not overwhelmingly depressing. Bauman used Profoto Pro-7b generators to capture employees and the memorial under the ominous Colorado skies.

©Kevin Bauman

©Kevin Bauman

When shooting interiors for commercial work, he explains, “I light it, but light it so it’s minimal, or doesn’t look artificially lit at all.” Among these clients, he typically shoots for interior design firms, developers, and architectural firms. With his father being an architect, Bauman spent years reading architecture magazines, which helped him develop his style for this side of his photography business.

©Kevin Bauman

©Kevin Bauman

Along with his PocketWizards, Bauman has shot Mamiya RB67’s and RZs. To move all his gear, Bauman has relied on Tenba rolling cases and Air Cases. “I’ve shot in some pretty nasty industrial locations — plants where they do anodizing and plating of metal, one-hundred twelve degree temperatures. They have vats of acid where they dip the metal in, steaming. The smells are horrible and everything is coated with stuff. The PocketWizards never stop working.”

www.kevinbauman.com
www.themotorlesscity.com
The Motorless City Photos
Kevin Bauman on Flickr
100 Abandoned Houses
Kevin Bauman at Behance

Selected Kevin Bauman Commercial Work:
Behance
Coroflot
Coroflot 2

Other coverage:
Camera Obscura
Really Good Magazine
Squidge Magazine
The 405

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