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Camilo José Vergara

25 September 1:15pm - 3:15pm
Venue: 114 Avery Hall
Columbia University
Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation
1172 Amsterdam Avenue
New York

Crossroads: Photographic Archives of the Urban Fabric

Camilo José Vergara

Photographer and Writer, Citylab


For more than four decades, Vergara has devoted himself to photographing and systematically documenting the poorest and most segregated communities in urban America. His focus is on established East Coast cities such as New York, Newark and Camden; rust belt cities of the Midwest like Detroit and Chicago; and such West Coast cities as Los Angeles and Richmond, California. He is drawn to the urban fabric of America’s poor inner cities — to the buildings that compose it and the life and culture embedded in its structures and streets.


Eventually he developed a method to document entire neighborhoods and then to return year after year to re-photograph the same places over time and from different heights, blanketing entire communities with images. Along the way he became a historically conscious documentarian, an archivist of decline, a photographer of walls, buildings and city blocks.


This lecture will explore photography as a medium that spurs continuous inquiry and thus leads to greater understanding of the spirit of a place. Vergara thinks of his images as bricks that, when placed in context with each other, reveal shapes and meanings within these often neglected urban communities. Through photography, he has become a builder of virtual cities.

The Lectures in Planning Series (LiPS) is an initiative of the Urban Planning program at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation.


All lectures are free and open to the public. For more information or to make program suggestions, email lipscolumbiaplanning@gmail.com.