The deterioration of the American inner city stands in stark contrast to the prosperity characteristic of the United States for much of the twentieth century. Skyscrapers that once defined the modern era stand derelict and abandoned. Massive industrial manufactories lie rusting, their cavernous interiors dark. Formerly vibrant theaters shed bricks and terra-cotta ornaments. These desolate fragments of America's cityscapes are the legacy of decades of proud investment in the urban realm followed by decades of devastating neglect.
Photographer and sociologist Camilo José Vergara has spent years documenting the decline of the built environment in New York City; Newark and Camden, New Jersey; Philadelphia; Baltimore; Chicago; Gary, Indiana; Detroit; and Los Angeles. His photographic sequences—images of the same sites taken over the course of many years—show once-sturdy structures as ghostly ruins and then as empty lots or flimsy new buildings. Grand civic edifices—the Michigan Central Railroad Station in Detroit, the Essex County Jail in New Jersey, the Camden Free Public Library—have become empty, roofless shells, dusted with snow in the winter and filled with stray plant and animal life in the summer. Monumental commercial and industrial buildings such as RCA Victor's "Nipper" Building in Camden and the Packard Automobile Plant in Detroit bear broken windows and rubble-strewn interiors. At once a scathing critique of national indifference to the plight of the inner city and a meditation on the aesthetic impact of desolate and neglected buildings, American Ruins stands as a witness to a vanishing era of the American city.
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LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - LibraryThing
I was nattering on about my interest in abandoned human structures to my friend Jared, and he recommended I check out the work of the photographer Camilo José Vergara, specifically this book. I was a little apprehensive reading the introduction, which made it look like I was in for a long screed condemning American society for its mishandling of the inner city and the lower classes, which while possibly true, could make for annoying reading. However, this turned out to be so much more than that: the pictures are great, and the the text is almost a celebration of the abandoned buildings it depicts, as monuments to American ingenuity from times past. Not to mention times present, as Vergara spends much time talking about how many of these supposedly "abandoned" structures-- factories, hotels, train stations, libraries and more-- are still used and still inhabited by the unnoticed members of our society. He's an excellent writer in addition to being an excellent photographer; I love the glimpses we get as he roots through these structures, finding abandoned records in the Newark Parole Office, Administration, and Personnel offices that briefly illuminate a disciplinary case from over thirty years ago, visible only in tiny pieces to us now. Some of these structures need to be demolished, but never will be-- sometimes that money's not there, sometimes no one in authority is even aware that there's a problem. But sometimes they are demolished, and then Vergara mourns their loss. The monuments of the early twentieth century, Americanism at its height, demolished to make way for another parking lot. Surely even an abandoned office building is better than that? The majority of the pictures come from places like Detroit, Gary, Newark, and New York City, as you might imagine; one of my favorites was probably the postmodern sculpture of Tyree Guyton's Heidelberg Project: abandoned houses coated with the detritus of our modern society and culture. And perhaps one of the most haunting images is that of the trees now growing inside the abanoned Camden Free Public Library. Humanity may no longer have a use for what we have built, but nature always will.
Review: American RuinsUser Review - Goodreads
Ruin porn with redeeming social value. Vergara doesn't just exploit decayed and collapsing buildings for their sad beauty. He gets to know them, and sometimes their denizens and neighbors, complementing his lovely photos with engaging, and often depressing, stories.
INTRODUCTION Energies of the Outmoded
A New Reality a New World a New Faith
Firemens Insurance Headquarters at the Four Corners Newark
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