REVIEW: “Tales Told in Brick and Stone”

Taking Time with “Tales Told in Brick and Stone”

This week I took a walk to The Argus Museum to check out “Tales Told in Brick and Stone” a photography exhibition centered on the emotional resonance of abandoned buildings. The show is a group exhibit featuring the work of Sophie Grillet, Susan Lawless, and Sasha Mykhailova. Themes of shadow, neglect, and decay bring our attention to what we abandon, and express reverence for the echoes of the past found in the structures of our present.

Sophie Grillet is an English artist turned Ann Arbor local.  Her collection “Shadows of the Past” reflects on impermanence. Often her compositions pair buildings with the shadows of figures, contrasting the fleeting nature of people with the intention of buildings to last.

“Orvieto Italy” and “Shadow on Glass”

Susan Lawless’ work is a photography essay titled “Asylum”. It features photos of the abandoned  Northern Michigan Asylum for the Insane. “Asylum” reflects on what it means to be on the outskirts of society. There is a haunting quality to a location like an abandoned insane asylum, and Lawless’s collection brings a respect to the place. We are asked to spend time with something that so often we turn our eyes and minds from, and in doing so we spend time with the memories of the people who once lived and worked there.


Sasha Mykhailova is a Ukranian photographer. Her collection is a series of photographs taken of the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. The photographs are of rooms abandoned and in states of disrepair, gymnasiums with floors warped beyond being a floor, dormitories with rusted out bed frames, papers yellowed and scattered across floors. The presence of disaster and decay warns us to turn away, go back, find another way to go. Mykhailova holds our hand and says, “It’s okay, look”.

“Chernobyl” 6-9

The stories that buildings tell are subdued and often quietly complex. To listen to them requires us to slow down and spend time with emotions that aren’t usually comfortable. We are eager to be distracted from the past, the marginalized, the fleeting, and the abandoned. Maybe in part because it puts our present moment into the context of history. After spending time with “Tales Told in Brick and Stone”, I felt like I had gained a reverence for the past, and an awareness of how the structures around me will continue on long after me. I looked around The Argus Museum with a new perspective, appreciating a space dedicated to remembering.

The Argus Museum is on the second floor of the Argus building on William Street, a few blocks away from the Ann Arbor District Library. It is a museum about the Argus Camera Company, which was founded in Ann Arbor in 1931. In addition to the current arts exhibition, the museum is full of old cameras and artifacts about camera making, documenting the history and development of the Argus camera company. The museum hosts photography exhibits and conferences throughout the year in their gallery space.

“Tales Told in Brick and Stone” will be available for viewing at The Argus Museum until April 5th.


Sarah Rooney is a writer and figure skater studying Philosophy at the University of Michigan. She's passionate about storytelling in any form it takes. You can read more of her writing on her blog

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