Camilo Jose Vergara’s work takes a historical photographic look at the dramatic evolution and dissolution of New York’s neighborhoods over decades.
I really love his early early 1970’s work. For me, the most captivating series is “Old New York”, a body of photos that exposed the neglected, desolated, apocalyptic cultural landscape existing in the South Bronx.
In these pictures you can clearly see destructive legacy left behind by the development of the Cross Bronx Expressway in the 1950’s. The construction of the Cross Bronx essentially bifurcated the city in two. As white, middle class residents migrated north, thousands of poor black, brown and immigrant residents were displaced in the South Bronx. By the 1970’s after decades of abandonment and blight, the area was further destroyed by slumlords in search of insurance money who burned buildings they owned. The flames were systematically and symbolically fanned by a city government that depleted the area of critically essential fire fighting resources. At one point the city “averaged 12,000 fires a year-more than 30 a day.” (Source, Will Hermes, Love Goes to Buildings on Fire)
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