Book Review – “Global Remains” by Michael Clinton

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When I was offered a chance to review Michael Clinton’s book, Global Remains: Abandoned Architecture and Objects from Seven Continents, I was thrilled. As an amateur photographer, I had heard of Michael Clinton, who is the head of Hearst Magazines, and is known for his travel photography. I couldn’t wait to see what this book, the latest in a series of three, had to offer.

I should say that it is a photo book (coffee table book) and only contains an occasional poetic passage as a description of each chapter. The book is divided into seven sections named for different aspects of community ruins. The industrial section, for instance, contains photos of ruined industrial complexes and factories. There is one section on graffiti that I thought might be interesting. He also devotes an entire chapter to several abandoned airfields in Arizona.

On the first page of the introduction, there is a typographic error; the author misspelling the name of his own book. There is another flaw in this book, however. Clinton seems to be trying to create art from scrap and ruined buildings but is mostly unsuccessful. Personally, I have difficulty finding the beauty in these things, especially if they are modern structures. It takes a phenomenal photographer to bring out the beauty in wreckage. I’m not sure Clinton did so in every photograph.

Clinton has photographed dilapidated structures and wrecks from his travels around the world. It does seem, though, that he focused on the most mundane subjects to photograph. It is often the case that extremely ugly subjects can be interesting and startling when photographed. The photos here are mostly uninteresting and without even the symbolism and attraction that truly ugly things possess.

On the other hand, the author has been very creative and daring to include this collection as part of his trilogy. It takes some courage to attempt to create an artistic view of structures like this. I would have been, however, more impressed if the author had chosen fewer, more artistic photographs to include and left out some of the less interesting. I was impressed with many of the graffiti shots and the transportation section was very interesting. I could have done without all 45 pages of ruined aircraft.

I reviewed some of the photos in his other book, American Portraits, and was stunned by the artistic way he put his travels together in a meaningful and beautiful piece. Global Remains does not seem to contain that same substance but, perhaps that was the author’s intention. If he was going for a photographic collection of wreckage and debris, then he achieved that.

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by David Elwood

David Elwood is an avid scuba diver, leisure traveler and cancer survivor. He has traveled extensively to witness the wonderful things the world has to offer . His latest hobby, travel photography, continues to take him to faraway places.

One Response to “Book Review – “Global Remains” by Michael Clinton”



I may have to check it out, I also take pictures of fallen down buildings.

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