Detroit Is No Dry Bones by Camilo Jose Vergara

 Detroit Is No Dry Bones
by Camilo Jose Vergara
University of Michigan Regional, Arts & Photography, Publish date August 28, 2016



NetGalley Summary:

Over the past 25 years, award-winning ethnographer and photographer Camilo José Vergara has traveled annually to Detroit to document not only the city's precipitous decline but also how its residents have survived. From the 1970s through the 1990s, changes in Detroit were almost all for the worse, as the fabric of the city was erased through neglect and abandonment. But over the last decade, Detroit has seen the beginnings of a positive transformation, and the photography in Detroit Is No Dry Bones provides unique documentation of the revival and its urbanistic possibilities. Beyond the fate of the city's buildings themselves, Vergara's camera has consistently sought to capture the distinct culture of this largely African American city. The photographs in this book, for example, are organized in part around the way people have re-used and re-purposed structures from the past. Vergara is unique in his documentation of local churches that have re-occupied old bank buildings and other impressive structures from the past and turned them into something unexpectedly powerful architecturally as well as spiritually.

My Review:
This book had an unsettling effect on me. All those ruins and they really are ruins, relics of a grander time. All the life, gone. Vergara commented on it himself at one point. There are no people in his photographs. He'd start to take a picture and try to refocus to capture a person, and the person would be gone. There are whole parts of Detroit where there are no people, though. Nothing but rotting floors, rusting pipes, faded signs, fallen roofs. Abandoned. Burnt. Abused. And graffiti over all. In some landscapes, that's the only color, the graffiti. It's a stark sight and he's been photographing it for a long time. Each year catching the changes. Some slow, gradual. Some as quick as a flash of hot fire. No one to stop it. No one to care.

No, that's not true. There are people who care. The African American population in Detroit fights back as it can. However, the money in Detroit doesn't belong to them. And Packards aren't made in Detroit anymore. No jobs. No money. No power. No progress. Slow progress. The revelation of the condition of their city has embarrassed some of the people of Detroit and things are ever so slowly changing. It's going to take time. It's going to take a whole lot of money. And it's going to take a whole lot of caring. I hope Mr. Vergara keeps dropping into Detroit with his camera to take pictures.

This book is being published on August 28, 2016. I was provided a digital copy of the book in exchange for an honest review by University of Michigan Regional and NetGalley. I am not being compensated in any way. All opinions stated are fully my own.
~ Judi E. Easley

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