Who the Heck Is...
CAMILO JOSÉ VERGARA?
Short Take: Chilean-born, New York based writer and photographer deeply concerned with architectural deterioraton, dysfunction, and urban blight, and with religion. Winner of a MacArthur "Genius" Grant in 2002.
Interview (talking about the World Trade Centers as architecture for "American Experience")
A Taste: "Mormon Missionaries looking at a New York City subway map, Freeman Street Station, South Bronx" (below).
Critical Voice: "Vergara’s reluctance to hold the activist torch while remaining firmly entrenched in the midst of the highly politicized arena of public housing has allowed him to produce some of the most important American photographic work on this topic to date. While such thorough documentation of America’s often seedy underbelly deserves to be federally funded, Vergara has remained an independent producer of his various projects. While this has certainly led to hardships for the author, it has allowed him to produce truly touching and telling stories of the lives of those people relegated to the outskirts of American society. But perhaps more unusual, unique, and in the end, valuable to the study of public housing, Vergara has revealed the marginalized lives of the buildings that serve as homes to those on the outside looking in—a modern-day Jacob Riis—whose contributions may provide clues to a better future for the much-maligned necessity and legitimacy of public housing." (Andrew Wagner, Loud Paper)
Unusual Strategy: Known for returning to, and photographing, urban locations again and again.
Where to see the pictures: in his books
Books: Seven so far, including the monumental American Ruins (1995). Most recently, How The Other Half Worships (the title a take on Jacob Riis' How the Other Half Lives), 2005.
Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON
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