American Ruins

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Monacelli Press, 1999 - Photography - 224 pages
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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 Josť 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 Ruinsstands as a witness to a vanishing era of the American city.

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User Review  - Stevil2001 - 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 Josť Vergara, specifically this book. I was a ... Read full review

American ruins

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Once proud and often eloquent sentinels of economic prosperity, America's deteriorating inner-city buildings are, in this unflinching socio-photodocumentary, caught in their death throes. Continuing ... Read full review


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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125th Street abandoned buildings African-American Albert Kahn Alfred Street American Brewery architect architecture Art Deco artist Bee Branch Beirut Benton Harbor billboards block Book-Cadillac Hotel bricks Broadway Bronx Borough Courthouse Brooklyn Brooks Bakery Brush Park building's Bushwick Bushwick Theater Calvary Presbyterian Church Camden Cass Corridor Central Los Angeles Central Ward Chicago Bee Chicago Bee Building Chicago Housing Authority Church cinderblock City Methodist city's Corn Exchange Bank corner David Broderick Tower dead pit decay Delaware River demolished demolition derelict Detroit River dollars don't downtown Detroit drug paraphernalia East East New York Eastern State Penitentiary Elliot Avenue empty lots entrance Erich Mendelsohn Essex County Jail facade floor Ford Heights former Fritz Lang Gary ghetto Gothic Revival graffiti Grand Circus Park Harlem Heidelberg Project Heidelberg Street Henry Horner Homes high-rise homeless Hudson's Department Store Indiana University Northwest inside International Harvester ipp6 ipp8 ippi ippj ippS Jack Frost Kales Building Krueger landmark Latino look Los Angeles Louis Kamper Malcolm X mansion Manuel Castells Marshall Berman Metropolitan Building Michigan Central Michigan Central Railroad Michigan Central Station Mickey Mouse Morrisania Mount Elliot nearby neighborhood neon signs Newark Nipper North Philadelphia Northeastern High School once Packard Packard Plant painted Philadelphia Inquirer photograph pit bull plywood RCA Victor rehabilitation Rengo Rickel Riviera Theater Robert Fishman roof Row houses ruins rusted Salvation Army Samuelson sealed Side of Chicago skyline skyscraper South Bronx South Central Los South Park South Side squatters Station Street structure Sutter Avenue terra-cotta Tim Samuelson tion told Triangle Building Tyree Guyton U.S. Steel Union Station United Artists urban vacant Wayne State University West Lake West Pullman West Side Woodland Cemetery York City

About the author (1999)

Camilo Josť Vergara is the author of Twin Towers Remembered and The New American Ghetto and coauthor of Silent Cities: The Evolution of the American Cemetery. He was awarded a 2002 MacArthur Fellowship. Since 1977 he has documented urban destruction throughout the United States as part of his New American Ghetto Archive; included in the archive are the South Bronx, Harlem, and North Central Brooklyn, New York; Newark and Camden, New Jersey; Chicago, Illinois; Gary, Indiana; Detroit, Michigan; and Los Angeles County (South Central, Downtown, East Los Angeles, Pacoima, Compton, Vernon, South Gate, and Huntington Park), California. Vergara has received numerous awards, including grants from the New York Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. His photographs have been acquired by the New York Public Library, the Getty Center in Los Angeles, the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City, the Chicago Historical Society, and Avery Library at Columbia University.

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