This image made me uncomfortable. At first I wondered why; it wasn’t any more ruinous than any of the other pictures that had been included in the “Ruins of Detroit” photo essay. The longer I looked at it, the more I realize that this photo inverted the rule-of-thirds on the viewer. Not that the photo isn’t divided up into thirds at all, but that instead of placing the subject against a cross of third lines, the photographer instead placed the subject directly in the middle. That left a good amount of negative space around the upper portion of the photo. It added a bleakness to the image that I felt weren’t present in many of the other, more cropped photos in the essay.
The photo also manages to be balanced despite the subject being clearly unbalanced. Framing the image with the tree on the left and the houses on the right adds a symmetry across the entire image, which only makes the fact that the house is about to fall over all the more obvious. The house also appears like it’s about to fall in on itself, with the outer edges almost appearing to be rising where the rest of the house is shrinking. This creates a further effect of symmetry, albeit a much more subtle one.
I would say that, for me at least, this was the hook shot of the essay. I felt that before this image was a collection of photographs that were all pretty similar and that all showed the ruins in a similar way. When I came upon this photograph, however, I paused, because, as I stated above, this photo made me uncomfortable. It was creepy in a way the other photos weren’t. This is a building most likely haunted.
I chalked up this haunting feeling to the unusual subject placement in the image. So then, what makes a photo with its subject in the dead middle acceptable? Or, put another way, when is breaking the rule of thirds okay?
note: after a little research (re: a google search), I found out that this building is nicknamed Ol’ Slumpy and that it was demolished in 2007. I was almost sad to read that.