Camilo José Vergara ReceivesNational Humanities Medal

On Wednesday, July 10, President Barack Obama presented 2012 National Humanities Medals to twelve Americans for their achievements in history, literature, higher education, social documentary and cultural criticism.  Medals were presented to historians Edward L. Ayers and Natalie Zemon Davis; academic leaders William G. Bowen and Jill Ker Conway; authors Joan Didion and Marilynne Robinson; sports writer Frank Deford; political scientist Robert D. Putnam; poet Kay Ryan; editor Robert B. Silvers; actress and playwright Anna Deavere Smith; and photographer Camilo José Vergara.

Invisible Cities
Visitors to Invincible Cities navigate Vergara’s images with maps, a timeline, multiple image types, and image themes. Caption information below each image includes a street address, the date of capture, a short description and the census tract number. A comments tab takes users to a space where they can read or share their comments. (Screen shot taken 7/11/2013)

Vergara is based in New York and has been documenting the poorest neighborhoods in some of America’s poorest cities for over forty years.  He collaborated with past Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities (MARCH) director Howard Gillette on Invincible Cities, an interactive website that contextualizes Vergara’s images in space and across time.  The project focuses on the cities of Richmond, California and Camden, New Jersey to ask questions about the built environment of American ghettos.  Through the art of rephotography Vergara works to “uncover patterns shaping the nation’s poorest and most segregated post-industrial cities.”

Invincible Cities is hosted at Rutgers-Camden and sponsored by the Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities (MARCH).  Last winter it was included in the exhibition Visions of Camden, at the Stedman Gallery at Rutgers University-Camden.  Visions of Camden explored ways of seeing and representing the city through art, photography, and artifacts.

Vergara is the first photographer to receive a National Humanities Medal.

To learn more about Camilo José Vergara and the other 2012 recipients, visit the National Endowment for the Humanities website,