Graduate Theses & Dissertations

American Acropolis, American Ruins
Since 1979, photographer and sociologist Camilo José Vergara has taken repeat photographs of American cities in decline, focusing on evolving landscapes of postindustrial decay. Vergara's images subscribe to an aesthetic of ruin while providing a record of America's crumbling ghettos rooted in social documentary concerns. Vergara's work diverges from the ahistorical tendencies of contemporary ruin porn photography: by challenging the photograph's temporal stasis Vergara bears witness to the ongoing reality of disenfranchisement, assembling an archive that takes up the Benjaminian task of doing history in images. Vergara's photographs challenge standard photojournalistic portrayals of violence, particularly the ways in which `violent' African American and Hispanic inner city populations have been erroneously cast as the cause of their own economic misfortune. The Invincible Cities website assists Vergara in drawing attention to forgotten places but also complicates his mandate to engage outside viewers by distancing them from the real-­world environments his photographs portray. Author Keywords: Camilo José Vergara, imagistic history, postindustrial decline, repeat photography, ruin porn, Walter Benjamin

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