For almost 40 years Camilo José Vergara has been documenting the impoverished urban areas of the US through a meticulous documentary approach. He’s shot the same buildings and areas at regular intervals, depicting the growing decay and change of destination.
Practically estranged from the photography market, Vergara has received support and attention from individual patrons and institutions operating in the fields of evolution and urban reconversion of contemporary America.
Over the past 15 years the visual topology of cities has been definitely expanded and fragmented, thus becoming uneven: on the one hand, it seems to be delegated to such automatised systems as surveillance cameras or Google Street View, cut out and filtered through smartphones and social networks, or even left to the subjective lens of fine-art photographers - with quite variable outcomes ranging from glossy to reportage-like style.
Vergara himself uses Google Maps and Street View for his localization work - obviously with a different visual and documental value.
In such a context, his work fills a methodological - and, paradoxically, aesthetic - void, bringing back the representation of cities to its former aims: inhabiting, working and moving. The buildings - undisputed protagonists of “Tracking Time” - have a urban existence only if the above-mentioned functions are still active: once the function ceases to be, images tell the story of decay or reconversion of the building itself. Similarly, people are often present, yet in an absolutely casual manner (according to day or night time), and their interaction (or lack of it) with the location becomes part of the story, too. Light itself is part of the story, conferring an extremely peculiar imprint to photographs within the constant operative minimalism that characterises them.
Perfectly fitting to the author's sociological and urbanist formation, “Tracking Time” finds its soul in the unavoidable monitoring of time, thus creating a unique result in its genre - a fundamental milestone to really comprehend contemporary America.
Camilo José Vergara has been awarded numerous institutional awards in the US - such as the National Humanities Medal he has recently been presented with by President Obama.
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