Camilo José Vergara on Detroit

May 1, 2014
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What sets photographer Camilo Vergara apart from the legions of journos and ruin pornistas who’ve paratrooped into Detroit over the last several years?

For one, he has been visiting Detroit since the 1980s, way before it was cool to market images of just how jacked Detroit is. (So long, in fact, that he’s sometimes called “The man who’s been doing Google Street View since before Google’s founders were born.“)

For another thing, he has genuine affection for urban environments, which shows through in his reporting work.

And last but not finally, Vergara actually talks to people, interviews them and presents them as human beings.

That’s why we’ve featured his work in cover stories, and why we check in with him from time to time.

It turns out that his work on Detroit has been featured online by Time, which is a good thing, since we’re none too satisfied with what came out of that magazine’s project to garrison themselves in a Detroit house for a year.

What comes through in the story? A savvy, sensible, empathetic urban anthropologist of sorts documenting a city and its people. Although Time chose to lead with the photo of a ruin that everybody has seen, Vergara actually knows what’s going on and reports the truth (although much later where, one presumes, he felt the photo belonged).

Nice to see our old friend lighting up the media again, and showing that, just because you’re snapping photos in the city, it doesn’t have to be ruin porn.