In his series titled Feral Houses, photographer James Griffioen captures abandoned houses around Detroit that are slowly being devoured by nature; as weeds, grass, vines and trees slowly grow over what a family used to call home. You can find the rest of this 65-photograph series at his official site: jamesgriffioen.net
You can also find him blogging at Sweet Juniper! and check out his other interesting projects. Enjoy!
Feral Houses by James D. Griffioen
I have heard people here use the word “feral” because so many of Detroit’s strays learn to survive long-term on their own. Feral, used in this sense, means they have reverted to a wild state, as from domestication. Our word feral comes from the Latin root fera, or “wild beast,” but it also has a connection to another Latin word, feralis, literally: belonging to the dead.
I’ve seen “feral” used to describe dogs, cats, even goats. But I have wondered if it couldn’t also be used to describe certain houses in Detroit. Abandoned houses are really no big deal here. Some estimate that there are as many as 10,000 abandoned structures at any given time, and that seems conservative. But for a few beautiful months during the summer, some of these houses become “feral” in every sense: they disappear behind ivy or the untended shrubs and trees planted generations ago to decorate their yards. The wood that framed the rooms gets crushed by trees rooted still in the earth. The burnt lime, sand, gravel, and plaster slowly erode into dust, encouraged by ivy spreading tentacles in its endless search for more sunlight.
Like some of the dogs I’ve seen using these houses as shelter, these houses are reverting to a wild state, as from domestication, a word derived itself from domesticus (the Latin for belonging to the domus, or house). Now these houses are feralis. They belong only to the dead.
Photographer James D. Griffioen
In 2006, James Griffioen walked away from a career as a successful securities lawyer at a large San Francisco law firm and moved his family to downtown Detroit, where he no longer practices law but instead spends his days taking care of his two children and taking photographs. He publishes a blog about his life in Detroit called Sweet Juniper.
His photos have appeared in Harper’s, Vice, Time, New York, Re:Public (Sweden), Landscape Architecture and many other publications. He has been featured on American Public Media’s “The Story,” CBC’s arts program “Q,” NPR’s “On the Media” and CNN, as well as the Chicago Tribune, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post.