National Building Museum Presents “Documenting Crossroads: The New Normal”

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Online exhibition showcases the second part of Camilo José Vergara’s ongoing documentation of urban spaces and people’s behavior during the pandemic

April 25, 2020: José, wearing protective gear and controlling entry to the H F Dollar & Up Fruits & Vegetables store, 61-27 Roosevelt Avenue, Queens, NY. © Camilo José Vergara
April 25, 2020: José, wearing protective gear and controlling entry to the H F Dollar & Up Fruits & Vegetables store, 61-27 Roosevelt Avenue, Queens, NY. © Camilo José Vergara

WASHINGTON, D.C.The National Building Museum is proud to present “Documenting Crossroads: The New Normal.” This online-only photography exhibition presents the work of renowned urban photographer Camilo José Vergara and records how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected people in poor, segregated neighborhoods across the New York metropolitan area. In particular, “The New Normal” reveals how life in these urban crossroads—places that Vergara has repeatedly returned to over the past decade—have been altered during these last few months, from space adaptations for economic survival to behavioral changes as people seek to avoid becoming ill.

In addition to the 71 featured images, “The New Normal” highlights Vergara’s observations and notes from his time documenting these urban spaces. “In all my decades as a photographer, I have never before experienced such intense interactions with strangers who, like myself, are on guard, afraid, and confused,” he writes. The exhibition also includes a thoughtful essay by Elihu Rubin, Associate Professor of Architecture, Urbanism, and American Studies at Yale University. Rubin, along with consulting curator Chrysanthe Broikos, worked with Vergara to organize, select, and sequence the final images. Rubin notes in his essay, “We join Camilo as he makes his rounds to the ‘Crossroads,’ a set of urban nodes … he has identified as moments of civic intensity, irrepressible places that manifest trends and anchor public life.” This exhibition is a companion piece to Vergara’s earlier work, “Documenting Crossroads: The Coronavirus in Poor, Minority Communities,” which the Museum published online in April 2020.

Vergara intends to continue his coronavirus series. “These intersections are social condensers and amplifiers, yet they are barely mentioned in media depictions of the virus and its impact, despite the fact that the number of fatalities from Covid-19 are 10 times the national average.”

Braulio Agnese,

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One of the nation’s foremost urban documentarians, Camilo José Vergara is a recipient of the 2012 National Humanities Medal (awarded by President Barack Obama) and was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2002. Drawn to America’s inner cities, Vergara began recording New York City’s urban landscape in 1970, the year he settled there. Since 1977, he has photographed some of the country’s most impoverished neighborhoods, repeatedly returning to locations in New York, Newark, Camden, Detroit, Gary, Chicago, and Los Angeles.