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The Gritty Street Life of New York City in the 1970s

Camilo José Vergara/Library Of Congress
Camilo José Vergara/Library Of Congress

Photographs are a means of discovery, clarifying visions, and constructing knowledge for Camilo José Vergara.

For Vergara, pictures become the starting point for asking questions, linking to other images, and exploring new ideas.

He began working as a photographer in New York City after arriving from Chile in the 1960s. He graduated with a B.A. in sociology from the University of Notre Dame and went on to study an M.A. in sociology at Columbia University.

Vergara first realized the potential of using photography to document the changes in the city’s urban environment and its effect on social behaviour when he was a student at Columbia.

In the end, Vergara turned to rephotography, documenting one location over a period of several years or decades.

Photographers and filmmakers like Vergara have been capturing the plight of New Yorkers living among the city’s urban decay since the 1970s. Vergara photographed deprived areas of New York looking like war zones, areas suffering from both city and state indifference.

Over the course of his career, Vergara has documented poor, minority communities in Chicago, Newark, Detroit, Los Angeles and sixteen other cities across the United States. This work has produced more than 14,000 colour slides, numerous publications, exhibitions and film documentaries.

In his new book, Vergara intends to use his tremendous archive of work to show how urban ghettos have changed over time and identify the nature and meaning of American urban inequalities.

New York Photographer Camilo Jose Vergara

Old & Black and White Photos of New York City

View of lower Manhattan from the Manhattan Bridge

View of lower Manhattan from the Manhattan Bridge

East Harlem

East Harlem
East Harlem

Girls with Barbies, East Harlem

Girls with Barbies, East Harlem

Puerto Rican wedding, East Harlem

Puerto Rican wedding, East Harlem

Fifth Ave at 110th Street, East Harlem

Fifth Ave at 110th Street, East Harlem

Cadillac Fleetwood, Harlem

Cadillac Fleetwood, Harlem

Lexington Ave, Harlem

Lexington Ave, Harlem

Bronx River, Bronx

Bronx River, Bronx

South Bronx

South Bronx

On the way to Harlem

On the way to Harlem

The World Trade Center under construction from Duane Street

the World Trade Center under construction from Duane Street

Hoe Avenue at 172nd Street, Bronx

Hoe Avenue at 172nd Street, Bronx

Social Club sign, South Bronx

Social Club sign, South Bronx

Lower East Side, Manhattan

Lower East Side, Manhattan

Lower East Side music shop

Lower East Side music shop

Militant display, window, Bushwick, Brooklyn

Militant display, window, Bushwick, Brooklyn

Avenue C, Lower East Side

Avenue C, Lower East Side

Boy, Morrisania, South Bronx

Boy, Morrisania, South Bronx

Hunts Point, South Bronx

Hunts Point, South Bronx

1148 Longwood Avenue, Bronx

1148 Longwood Avenue, Bronx

Lower East Side, Manhattan

Lower East Side, Manhattan

Eagle and Westchester Avenues, Bronx

Eagle and Westchester Avenues, Bronx

Garage, Bushwick, Brooklyn

Garage, Bushwick, Brooklyn

113 South Bronx

113 South Bronx

East 167th Street, South Bronx

East 167th Street, South Bronx

65 East 125th Street, Harlem

65 East 125th Street, Harlem

65 East 125th Street, Harlem

65 East 125th Street, Harlem

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