One of Camilo José Vergara’s photographs on view at the New-York Historical Society.
Since the 1970s Camilo José Vergara has been photographing murals of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. painted on walls in cities across the United States. Through them, he has documented social and political changes in the country itself. On a wall in the Callowhill section of Philadelphia, above, Dr. King is the potent orator of the Washington marches; on Frederick Douglass Boulevard in Harlem he’s a solitary, anxious visionary. In Los Angeles his figure is all but buried under fresh graffiti; in the South Bronx, the site of turf wars between blacks and Latinos in the 1970s, his face is scratched out.
Most of the murals were based on published images of Dr. King, edited to context. With trends in immigration, he takes on Latino and Asian features. Over time he is joined by a shifting pantheon of timely heroes: Malcolm X, Nelson Mandela, Michael Jackson and President Obama. As one person explained to Mr. Vergara: “Rosa Parks sat so Martin Luther King could walk. Martin Luther King walked so Obama could run. Obama ran so we all can fly.” On the evidence of the 30 pictures in “The Dream Continues: Photographs of Martin Luther King Murals by Vergara” at the New-York Historical Society through May 5, the popularity of other heroes brightens and fades while Dr. King’s mystique lives on.
article by Holland Cotter via nytimes.com