The photographer Camilo José Vergara has been portraying USA cities since his arrival from Chile in 1965. In his work “Harlem, 1970-2009: Photographs by Camilo José Vergara” exhibited in 2009 in the New-York Historical Society, Vergara depicts nearly four decades of physical and social transformation in the neighborhood. The set of photographs presents two ordinary stores in an ordinary street of Harlem. These photographs, taken always from the same point and laid out chronologically, reveal the dynamic side of architecture and the urban environment, as well as the crucial role of the human being in its evolution. Place and time are directly related and both are directly dependent for each other.
Harlem, 1970-2009: Photographs by Camilo José Vergara
“The merchants and traders of Harlem have changed during the 40 years I've been going there. The Korean and the West Indian business people who had replaced an earlier generation of Jewish storeowners are now themselves being displaced by corporate franchises and chain stores. Many of the Korean toy, fruit, and clothing stores have closed, as have West Indian variety shops and restaurants. In their place is a proliferation of McDonalds, KFCs, and Blimpys.” (Vergara 2009)
The evidence of transformation can be traced through the series, as in the small window between both doors that remains there useless during a decade.