Analysis of The Fort Shelby Hotel

When viewing Marchand & Meffre’s photo essay, “The Ruins of Detroit,” one image that particularly stuck out to me was Fort Shelby Hotel. It is an image of of a hallway in the hotel, with yellow moldings and peeling wallpaper. To the right of the doorway to the hall is a row of windows which face the side of another old building.

At first glance I noticed that this photograph uses the rule of thirds. The focal point, the doorway, lies in the left-most third of the frame. However, the picture also has a good balance because of the large row of windows on the opposite side of the frame and the vertical pole in the center of the image which divides these two objects. I also really like the depth shown in the photo, as I can see down the hallway and catch glimpses of the doorways of the hotel rooms with light spilling into the hall. Finally, the objects in the photo keep my focus in the center of the photograph, because the wooden scrap on the floor and the metal pole point to the center of the image, drawing my eye to it and to the doorway.

(2) how you see the image fitting within the scheme of the larger photo essay of which it forms a part

This image is part of the larger concept of the once-beautiful icons and buildings in Detroit. Although the hotel is in ruins, the image draws my eye into the hallway, causing me to look beyond what is right in front of me both in a literal and metaphorical sense. The composition suggests to my imagination the former beauty of that hallway, and makes me think of the people who used to stay in those hotel rooms and the grandeur the hotel used to display. This concept fits into the larger theme of celebrating the former beauty of the city of Detroit before it is all completely lost and forgotten.

Although the subject matter is somewhat depressing – looking at the tattered remains of a building that used to be beautiful and will not likely ever be so again – this image elicits more than sad emotions. The bright yellow of the moldings in the hall and the light spilling in through the doors gives it an almost hopeful attitude, as though even though the hotel and its glamour are gone, the memories of the happy times there will still live on through this image.

J.E.B.

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