In the early 1970s in New York, visited the photographer Camilo Jose Vergara, and this is what he saw: "I arrived in New York during the Vietnam War in 1970, the year before he narrowly escaped bankruptcy. Fine buildings were abandoned, dirty streets, the parks were empty, we had the old school look. The abandoned houses were running packs of dogs, and their roofs were trees. Settlers opened the door and made holes in the walls. They removed the board with windows for natural light and ventilation, thus making the empty buildings in a shelter for the homeless, shooting galleries and ranges.
I was in the ghetto areas, hard and dangerous places, as evidenced by the graffiti calling for blacks and Hispanics to break the chains of oppression and become free. A dynamic street life, rebellious spirit, lack of white people, destroyed homes and the constant fear of being robbed or killed. On the streets I was faced with anger and confusion. People did not know when and where to wait for the next blow.
Sidewalks were the continuation of residential spaces. Young people stood along the walls. Church kept its doors open. The priests were sitting on the tracks in front of their houses of prayer. While the adults were smiling as children, and asked me to show them the resulting photographs. Sometimes I listen to what people are talking about in the phone booths. I once heard a man talking on the phone that his girlfriend threw all his stuff out of the window of their apartment.
I photographed people in the subway, men playing dominoes, street signs, advertisements for homes and of course graffiti. I joined weddings, rose to the apartment building and did portraits of elderly people sitting in the dark and looking out onto the street.
I wanted to capture a secret life in the ghetto. With you I always had a few lenses: a wide angle lens to capture panoramas and telephoto to shoot more specific scenes. During the early stages of its records, I did not write down people's names and addresses of the buildings. I tried to capture the essence, beyond time, personal names and physical space.
Fear was part of my photographic work. I quickly learned to walk and cross the street at the right time to avoid a meeting with a group of young people in a threatening manner. Several times I was told that I had left the neighborhood, because otherwise my camera will be selected or broken. One time I got hit in the face and my glasses fell to the ground. On the rare occasions when I came across a police car in these areas, the ministers about suspected me of selling or searching for drugs. After the words that I got lost, they advised me to leave here immediately, warning that I might be mugged.
In the early 1970s I witnessed the stabbing of a young black man, was released from a train on the platform at North 125th Street. It was a sunny day and I did not even think that such an event could occur. Blood ran down the victim's chest. The assailant ran away, looking back several times until it disappeared around the corner of Madison Avenue.
Now, in 2013, I am happy that my early photographs of New York City survived to the present day. These pictures I see glimpses of a sinking city that disappeared — historical artifacts, personal moments of people's lives, dilapidated buildings, all of this behind us. "