22 Jan 2008



Camilo Jose Vergara是一位出生於智利的攝影師,穿梭在芝加哥、底特律、洛杉磯和紐約等城市之中從事影像紀錄,長達三十多年。影像積累中他發現,在低收入社區中建築外牆的壁畫,常以馬丁路德為主題。有趣的發現是,其中的表現方式和構圖形式展現了不同的動機和想像,馬丁路德的呈現隨著該社區族群的不同,臉孔描繪也隨之變化,往往這人權鬥士的輪廓,在繪畫中更像是拉丁美洲人或南美印地安人。這一方面是因為壁畫多半出自居民或業餘藝術家之手,一方面或者也揉合著不同族裔對於馬丁路德理想的複雜認同表現。

構圖上也有很多有趣的例子,例如在洛杉磯,某家餐廳外牆上,馬丁路德和墨西哥革命領袖 Pancho Villa並肩共行。根據攝影師的訪問,那餐廳老闆認為,如此展現了拉丁裔美人對於非裔美人的友善。

Vergara 發現,這種透過壁畫表達立場的作法,在1992年洛杉磯暴動後特別多,尤其被拉美移民運用,一方面展現友善,一方面則希望能保護自己的家屋財產,免於侵犯。


Image taken in Mott Haven section of the South Bronx (1977) by Vergara
source: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=18229964

NPR新聞連結 :Photographer Chronicles Martin Luther King Murals (新聞中有廣播,以及不少壁畫影像可瀏覽)

Camilo Jose Vergara on Wiki

Introduction of Vergara in the Getty


Photographing a Ubiquitous Subject

by Camilo Jose Vergara

In America's poorest neighborhoods, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is perhaps the most popular subject of public art, along with the streets, hospitals, schools and housing projects bearing his name. Collectively these have become one of the defining elements of the American ghetto. I believe that they help us understand how people living in poor, segregated urban communities — those about whom Dr. King was most concerned — perceive him and his legacy. They show how inner-city residents use his portrait to feel proud, to sell merchandise, and to develop a sense of security, identity and belonging.

Since 1977, I have been documenting images of Dr. King that regularly appear along the commercial streets and alleys of such cities as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Camden, N.J., and Baltimore. Many of the murals portraying this civil rights leader are painted on the outside walls of liquor stores, auto-repair shops, fast food restaurants, mom and pop stores, and public housing projects. The majority are the work of sign painters and amateur artists. All of the statues and many of the murals I photographed are located on streets named after him.

Over time I became interested in learning why these images are so pervasive. I feel that they reflect a significant cultural phenomenon: the rise of Dr. King as a central moral figure in poor neighborhoods, and his elevation to secular sainthood as the savior of dispossessed African Americans. His varied representations, often based on photographs taken from the national media, express poor people's perceptions.

After the South Los Angeles riots of 1992, many Latino shopkeepers had Dr. King's portrait painted on the facades of their stores in the hope of staving off the African-American rioters from robbing or vandalizing their businesses.

Wherever they are located, his portraits are usually respected, thus escaping damage and defacement. Sometimes, however, practical considerations result in electric cords emerging from his face, or a closed-circuit TV camera being attached to his ear, or security gates installed over his portrait.

But few of the sign painters hired for portraits of Dr. King have been particularly adept at getting good likenesses, with the result that he often comes out looking Mexican or even Mexican Indian. And now that Latinos in South Los Angeles have become the majority, new images of Dr. King rarely appear while the old portraits of him have been replaced by religious images and specifically Latino subjects.

The phrase "I have a dream" is often written above or below portraits of King. The dream is about justice, equality, three meals a day, housing, education, jobs and peace in the neighborhood. The many images of him in the inner city are powerful reminders to residents to keep pursuing those goals.


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