There’s something about old places that always leaves you with a feeling of uncertain familiarity. Old places and empty places are like ghosts drifting behind us humming childhood singsongs just an octave below audible as we pace through their halls. If you’re from Detroit, you know that these places are aplenty. Some mighty like Roman ruins, some meek and shuttering in the wind, and most begging for new life. A new life is just what you’ll notice when you look at Michigan photographer Heather Saunders' photos of the amazing art installation, "The Flower House," which documents two long-abandoned homes in Hamtramck, Mich.
“It was about looking at blight in a new way, drawing attention to the possibility for reuse and memorializing the structure as it once stood and took care of a family,” Saunders said. “This is an art project, not something that is going to save the city, but it was our way to join the conversation about blight to business, and land reuse within the city.”
This project is the antithesis of “ruin porn,” a term common to Metro Detroit photographers that describes the now-popular practice of photographing the remains of Detroit’s crumbling infrastructure. The Flower House is about getting something back for the ashes — about beauty coming from what was once in shambles.
Saunders met Project Lead and Floral Designer Lisa Waud through the floral community she works with for her wedding photography business. “As soon as I heard about the project, I knew I had to be involved,” she said.
Documenting other forms of art plays a critical role in sharing the awareness that such projects are seeking to create. Saunders took the challenge to heart.
“It’s challenging, not wanting to create a styled shoot or think about some fairytale narrative, but for me this project — from a photography standpoint — was about documenting the entire project from conception and meetings, to the clean out and installation,” Saunders said. “I try to create images that allow people that aren't able to attend the exhibit to feel as though they are a part of it.”
All the flowers used were donated from farms across the United States. The first Flower House, as viewed here, is located on the service drive of I-75 at Caniff in Hamtramck, Mich.
Flower House is currently in a fundraising phase to raise money for its partner, Reclaim Detroit. Ultimately, the goal is to bring down the houses, reuse or salvage 75 percent of the materials, and then turn the home sites into gardens. Saunders says this will allow Flower House to end up as a living part of other projects around the city and not in a landfill.
A main event in October will consist of 15 rooms adorned from floor to ceiling. The public will be welcome to tour Flower House October 16–18. For more information, visit The Flower House's website.
All images used with permission.