In 1977, Camilo José Vergara (Santiago de Chile, 1944) began to photograph poor neighbourhoods in a series of cities in the United States in order to document the transformations that they were undergoing: South Bronx, Harlem and Central Brooklyn in New York, South Central in Los Angeles, and different parts of Chicago, Detroit, Newark (New Jersey) and Gary (Indiana).
The New American Ghetto, presented at MACBA as part of Primavera Fotográfica 2000, brought together a selection of over nine thousand photographs taken by Vergara in the last twenty years. The images illustrate the other side of America: working class neighbourhoods, city centres that suddenly become deserted due to the migration of the middle classes to the residential outer suburbs, the America of neglect. In an interview with Michael J. Dear, the artist declared: “I think that the most valuable things in our society are often overlooked. I can understand people throwing away old shoes or clothing, but the magnitude of what America abandons – buildings, massive factories, whole neighbourhoods – led me to question the reasons behind the phenomenon through images. Instead of seeking a logical explanation, I tried to experience the decadence by photographing it and talking to the people who live in the affected neighbourhoods. My projects are a classification or a type of taxonomy.”
Camilio José Vergara one of the most significant documentary photographers working in the American scene. His series combine texts and images, which become the basis for analysing the social impact of urban transformations.
In 1977, Camilo José Vergara (Santiago de Chile, 1944) started documenting the ghettos of the United States. Vergara has spent over fourteen years photographing certain neighbourhoods, and has documented parts of the South Bronx, Harlem, Central Brooklyn, Newark, Camden, Chicago, Gary, Detroit, and Los Angeles South Central. His photographs, which he grouped together under the title The New American Ghetto Archive, provide an analytical reading of a number of aspects of life in the ghettos, of their physical recognition and their relationship with their urban setting. These pictures, which have a great emotional impact, are vehicles of information which document the change in the urban layout and become a photographic record of American urban decay.