Alleys & Ruins no. 95, Central Station (2006, Detroit, MI, 12:15am)

Alleys & Ruins no. 95, Central Station (2006, Detroit, MI, 12:15am)

 

Michigan Central Station, built in 1913, was Detroit’s passenger rail terminal until the last train pulled out in 1988. Restoration plans have existed ever since, but none have come close to fruition. In a city as broke as Detroit, it is too expensive to renovate and (luckily) also too costly to demolish.

This beaux-arts classical style building was designed by the same team that designed New York City's Grand Central Terminal. The massive main waiting room on the main floor was modeled after an ancient Roman bathhouse with walls of marble and a high vaulted ceiling. It was and still is a gorgeous building.

I had come to explore this monolith several times with my camera, circling the perimeter looking for a way in, past the fencing that surrounds it. Each time I was seen by police and was told each time to leave, once being asked if I was out of my fucking mind coming here at night. On my fourth attempt, I went with my friend Toko. This tiny Japanese girl was my bodyguard; I managed to squeeze my camera lens through a crack in the fence surrounding the building, and took the shot.

And then it gets ridiculous.

One of my worst faults is my insanely bad memory. After all the effort I make to get this photograph, I forget about the undeveloped negatives sitting at the photo lab, and then I almost lose them forever.

After this night of shooting, I drop the film off to be processed - this one roll of film contained three different locations in Detroit, plus all the work I had done in Nashville a week before (see Alley 93). In the weeks that follow, I continue shooting other night images, dropping those rolls off at the lab, and later picking them up. But this roll is never returned to me, and since I start forgetting I ever shot this stuff, I never ask the lab about it.

Months later I'm in the process of moving to California with Pam. We've shipped most stuff, including her car. We load up my van and get in to drive across the country - I just have to drop by the photo lab one last time to pick up my latest roll of film. We have just started our 2500 mile journey when I give the clerk my stub and he comes back with two rolls.

"I found this other roll with your name on it, I guess its your's," he tells me. "I think its been here a while, you might wanna take it."

I open up the package and I see the prints of Central Station and Nashville for the first time, months after having shot them. I groan and want to hit my head with a mallet, but I'm also thrilled - I can't believe my eyes!

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Xavier Nuez

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