Camilo J. Vergara’s Photographs of African American Communities in America’s Cities

My images throughout time give glimpses into poverty, segregation, and perseverance in cities throughout America during the past half century. They are part of an evolving historical record, contributing stories of resilience and pride …

Camilo J. Vergara has been photographing low-income, racially segregated neighborhoods in American cities since the 1970s. Earlier this year, the Library of Congress published a guide focusing on Vergara’s photographs that document African American communities, including neighborhoods in Chicago, New York City, and New Jersey as seen below.

Vergara’s work has taken him everywhere people go, from places of worship to city streets to homes.

Lily of the Valley Spiritual Church, singing " I really like my God. I do, I do, I do," 48th Place, at S. Princeton Ave., Chicago, 2002. Photo by Camilo J. Vergara. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/vrg.00267

Lily of the Valley Spiritual Church, singing ” I really like my God. I do, I do, I do,” 48th Place, at S. Princeton Ave., Chicago, 2002. Photo by Camilo J. Vergara, used by permission. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/vrg.00267

<em>Frederick Douglass at W. 125th St., Harlem, 2008</em> Photo by Camilo J. Vergara. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/vrg.00514

Frederick Douglass at W. 125th St., Harlem, 2008. Photo by Camilo J. Vergara, used by permission. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/vrg.00514

View west along Fern St. from #937 and N. 10th St., Camden, 1997. Photo by Camilo J. Vergara. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/vrg.00073

View west along Fern St. from #937 and N. 10th St., Camden, 1997. Photo by Camilo J. Vergara, used by permission. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/vrg.00073

Vergara’s time lapse photos reveal what has changed — or in some cases hasn’t — over time in a particular location. The collections include nearly a dozen images of Vyse Ave. at East 178th St. in the South Bronx, pictured below, taken years apart. Prints & Photographs Division photo curator Adam Silvia, who assembled the guide, says of the time lapse photos: “They demonstrate Vergara’s longstanding commitment to African American communities in cities across the United States.”

Vyse Ave. at East 178th St., South Bronx, N. Y, June 1980. Photo by Camilo J. Vergara. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/vrg.00039

Vyse Ave. at East 178th St., South Bronx, N. Y, June 1980. Photo by Camilo J. Vergara, used by permission. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/vrg.00039

Vyse Ave. at East 178th St., South Bronx, N Y, January 1986. Photo by Camilo J. Vergara. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/vrg.00043

Vyse Ave. at East 178th St., South Bronx, N Y, January 1986. Photo by Camilo J. Vergara, used by permission. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/vrg.00043

Vyse Ave. at 178th St., South Bronx, May 1991. Photo by Camilo J. Vergara, 1991. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/vrg.00045

Vyse Ave. at 178th St., South Bronx, May 1991. Photo by Camilo J. Vergara, used by permission. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/vrg.00045

Vyse Ave. at East 178th St., South Bronx, 2013. Photo by Camilo J. Vergara. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/vrg.00048

Vyse Ave. at East 178th St., South Bronx, 2013. Photo by Camilo J. Vergara, used by permission. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/vrg.00048

The guide includes many other images, of street art (many honoring African American leaders), of everyday people and reflections of particularly difficult circumstances. More than a thousand images by Vergara are available for viewing online, and the Library continues to collect and make these images available as Vergara continues to add to the historical record in real time.

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