Camilo José Vergara: Tracking Time

«I am a builder of virtual cities. I think of my images as bricks that, when placed next to each other, reveal shapes and meanings of neglected urban communities.» – Camilo José Vergara

Este miércoles el fotógrafo chileno Camilo José Vergara fue premiado, junto a otros 22 profesionales (dramaturgos, arquitectos, cineastas, historiadores, poetas, entre otros), por su destacado trabajo de cuatro décadas, documentando los cambios urbanos y sociales en las zonas más pobres y segregadas de Estados Unidos (país en el que vive), a través de su cámara de fotos y una serie de libros con sus imágenes y escritos.

 

 

Muy recomendable resulta visitar el sitio del fotógrafo, generoso en desplegar una interesante selección de más de sus 2.500 imágenes, donde además se puede leer un texto con sus objetivos y apreciaciones sobre el trabajo. Los dejamos con un extracto del texto de su sitio web oficial y algunos casos urbanos retratados, una y otra vez, a lo largo de décadas, por el fotógrafo.

Camilo José Vergara

«For more than four decades I have devoted myself to photographing and documenting the poorest and most segregated communities in urban America. I feel that a people’s past, including their accomplishments, aspirations and failures, are reflected less in the faces of those who live in these neighborhoods than in the material, built environment in which they move and modify over time. Photography for me is a tool for continuously asking questions, for understanding the spirit of a place, and, as I have discovered over time, for loving and appreciating cities.

My focus is on established East Coast cities such as New York, Newark and Camden; rust belt cities of the Midwest such as Detroit and Chicago; and Los Angeles and Richmond, California. I have photographed urban America systematically, frequently returning to re-photograph these cities over time. Along the way I became a historically conscious documentarian, an archivist of decline, a photographer of walls, buildings, and city blocks. Bricks, signs, trees, and sidewalks have spoken to me the most truthfully and eloquently about urban reality. 

I did not want to limit the scope of my documentation to places and scenes that captured my interest merely because they immediately resonated with my personality. In my struggle to make as complete and objective a portrait of American inner cities as I could, I developed a method to document entire neighborhoods and then return year after year to re-photograph the same places over time and from different heights, blanketing entire communities with images. Studying my growing archive, I discover fragments of stories and urban themes in need of definition and further exploration. Wishing to keep the documentation open, I include places such as empty lots, which as segments of a sequence become revealing. I observe photographic sequences to discover how places evolve, and to formulate questions. I write down observations, interview residents and scholars, and make comparisons with similar photographs I had taken in other cities. Photographs taken from different levels and angles, with perspective-corrected lenses, form a dense web of images, a visual record of these neighborhoods over time.» – Camilo José Vergara

 

 

 

Fern Street in N. Camden, NJ from 1979-2004. Clockwise from top left 1979, 1988, 1997, 2004:

 

Tracking Time, Vyse Avenue, New York, 1980-2013:

Harlem store front, 1977 – 2004:

 

Former Highland Park State Bank, 16549 Woodward Avenue, Highland Park, 1993, 2002, 2009:


 

 

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