Camilo José Vergara: American Ruins

  June –
July 2006

Poster announcing the “exhibition” American Ruins by Camilo José Vergara held at the Gallery of Photography in 2006.

This is the first European exhibition of new work by the distinguished American photographer and sociologist, Camilo Jose Vergara. It combines portions of the photographer’s most famous work, from Detroit and Harlem, NYC, along with a large selection of recent work on Camden, New Jersey, one of the most beleaguered cities in America. Beginning to photograph Camden in the late 1970s, Vergara had ‘the ominous feeling that the cityscape was about to disappear’ and he returned regularly to document sequences of neglect and abandonment as well as sporadic efforts at rebuilding the urban fabric. Vergara says of his project: ‘I wanted to create a visual archive similar to that sponsored by the Farm Security Administration during the Great Depression, but one representing the post-industrial American city instead. I have concentrated on those areas of the cities which have been left behind, and which are sometimes referred to as “reservations of the poor,” or hyper-ghettos.’

Broadway at Chelton Ave., Camden NJ 2003 from the exhibition AMERICAN RUINS by Camilo JosŽ Vergara at the Gallery of Photography Dublin, June 30 - July 30 2006.

Broadway at Chelton Ave., Camden NJ 2003 from the exhibition AMERICAN RUINS by Camilo JosŽ Vergara at the Gallery of Photography Dublin, June 30 – July 30 2006.

About the artist: Camilo José Vergara has been photographing sites of postindustrial ruin in the United States for more than thirty years, building a compelling visual chronicle of urban change. Repeatedly photographing the same locations in several American cities he documents both large scale and subtle changes in buildings and neighborhoods. His photographs reveal the hidden dimensions of ‘decline’ and ‘regeneration’, and hold up a critical mirror to the urban history of American modernity. 

Vergara is a 2002 recipient of a MacArthur ‘genius’ grant. His work has been exhibited widely and his photographs are in the collections of the New York Public Library, the J.P. Getty Museum in Los Angeles, and other institutions. His books include The New American Ghetto (1995), American Ruins (1999), Unexpected Chicagoland [with Timothy J. Samuelson] (2001), Twin Towers Remembered (2001), and How the Other Half Worships (2005).

321-323 Beckett St, Camden NJ, 2005 from the exhibition AMERICAN RUINS by Camilo JosŽ Vergara at the Gallery of Photography Dublin, June 30 - July 30 2006.

321-323 Beckett St, Camden NJ, 2005 from the exhibition AMERICAN RUINS by Camilo JosŽ Vergara at the Gallery of Photography Dublin, June 30 – July 30 2006.

Former Camden Free Public Library, 2nd floor reading room, Broadway at Line St., Camden 1997 from the exhibition AMERICAN RUINS by Camilo JosŽ Vergara at the Gallery of Photography Dublin, June 30 - July 30 2006.

Former Camden Free Public Library, 2nd floor reading room, Broadway at Line St., Camden 1997 from the exhibition AMERICAN RUINS by Camilo JosŽ Vergara at the Gallery of Photography Dublin, June 30 – July 30 2006.

The exhibition at the Gallery of Photography is part of an international conference titled ‘Photography and the City’, the first of its kind to be held in Ireland. Organised by the Clinton Institute for American Studies at University College Dublin, the conference will take place in the William Jefferson Clinton Auditorium, UCD campus, on the 29th June – 1st July. Internationally renowned photographers and academics – among them Camilo Jose Vergara and Peter Hales – will be among the 90 guest speakers, and delegates will be coming from across the world. For further details see www.ucd.ie/amerstud or contact Catherine Carey, [email protected], tel 01 716 1561.