'The New Normal'

John Hill
26. June 2020
Photo © Camilo José Vergara

An online exhibition of photographs by Camilo José Vergara shows residents in and around New York City adjusting to the "new normal" of social distancing, wearing face masks in public, waiting in long lines for basic services, and making ends meet when so many are out of work.

Photographer and writer Camilo José Vergara has long trained his lens on the streets of cities (see "The Other Shinola: A Proposal"), mainly poor and minority areas and particularly New York, where he lives. His latest outing is Documenting Crossroads: The New Normal, which captures the efforts of residents in poor, segregated neighborhoods as they go about their lives during a pandemic. The photos see Vergara bouncing from one "crossroad" to another in Harlem, Queens, Newark, New Jersey and other neighborhoods over the last few months.

"April 17, 2020: Three homeless men in their usual spot, a side entrance to the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, West 110th Street at Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY." (Photo © Camilo José Vergara)

Done with architectural historian Elihu Rubin from the Yale School of Architecture, the online exhibition includes a slideshow of Vergara's photographs — partitioned by such themes as "New Street Ballet" and "Carving Out Space" — and essays by Vergara and Rubin. Even though many people in New York City are working from home to deter the spread of COVID-19, the images and words of the exhibition reveal that New York's metro area is still teeming with people: the essential workers, the homeless, and others displaying what Rubin calls "this new urban ballet of social coordination."

"June 3, 2020: An open but boarded up Shake Shack in the aftermath of the violence and looting precipitated by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis; Fifth Avenue at 125th Street, Harlem, New York, NY." (Photo © Camilo José Vergara)

Visit the National Building Museum's website to see the entire Documenting Crossroads: The New Normal by Camilo José Vergara with Elihu Rubin; and see also the earlier exhibition it accompanies: Documenting Crossroads: The Coronavirus in Poor, Minority Communities by Camilo José Vergara with Chrysanthe Broikos.

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