In terms of decline, Detroit’s tale rates as one of the greatest American tragedy’s of recent time.
The once thriving metropolis has lost nearly sixty percent of its population since the mid-1950s. Photographer Camilo José Vergara has traveled to Detroit for over twenty five years to document not only the city’s precipitous decline but also how its residents have survived and has produced these stunning, but sad, photos of the hope the city once promised and its embattled state it currently exists in.
In an exhibition. which is currently being featured at the National Building Museum, Vergara’s work is described as revealing the city of Detroit as a place in which enormous ruins coexist with myriad restaurants, car-repair shops, churches and gardens—a city that is continually re-inventing itself even as it shrinks.
Of his work, Vergara says: “My belief is that by creating a photographic record of Detroit, as it is taken over by nature and pulled down by gravity, people will come to appreciate how the city continues to survive and to give answers to those who come to observe it…The empty land, the art projects, the graffiti commentaries, and the ruins of the city’s industrial past make Motown an unforgettable city of the imagination and could provide the basis for a new Detroit.”
Photographs by Camilo José Vergara