Carmilo José Vergara. Girls, Barbies, Harlem (1970)
Harlem, 1970-2009: Photographs by Camilo José Vergara
New York Historical Society
through July 12
From a review in today's New York Times by Holland Cotter
From the time he arrived in the United States from Chile as a college student in 1965, the photographer Camilo José Vergara has been haunting, and haunted by, American cities.
He lives in New York but has spent the better part of the past four decades in Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit and Los Angeles, urban centers with big, poor, largely segregated minority neighborhoods. He has also frequented smaller, fallen-apart industrial cities like Camden, N.J., and Gary, Ind., places he calls “permanent ghettos.”
By his own estimate he has returned to Gary more than a hundred times.
On each visit he has done the same thing: take pictures, mostly of buildings, often the same ones, recording over decades their abandonment, disintegration, demolition and replacement by cheaper structures, or parking lots, or by nothing at all.
This vigilance has produced several books, among them two great, generative visual essays in architectural anthropology, “The New American Ghetto” (1995) and “American Ruins” (1999), and exhibitions like “Harlem, 1970-2009: Photographs by Camilo José Vergara” now at the New-York Historical Society.
His self-created job as documenter is demanding. It can require the fearlessness of a reporter in a war zone and the solicitous detachment of a doctor doing rounds, though Mr. Vergara doesn’t claim these qualities. He has said in interviews that he goes where he goes and does what he does because he needs to.
Complete NYT review