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Photographer's Exhibit Shows Murals Of MLK

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The New York Historical Society is celebrating the history of culture in different neighborhoods. Harlem and the South Bronx are home to over a dozen murals depicting Martin Luther King Jr., and a new exhibit celebrating these artistic depictions of MLK. NY1's Stephanie Simon filed the following report.

It's Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as every man.

New York-based documentary photographer Camillo Vergara's exhibit "The Dream Continues" at the New York Historical Society is a collection of murals depicting Dr. King.

The photographs span over 30 years of his work, documenting some of the poorest and most crime-ridden neighborhoods in the United States.

"My original inspiration was that I wanted to photograph everything in poor neighborhoods," Vergara says. "Then, everything starts falling into little pieces, so in everything, there are kids, there are buildings, there are dogs, there are streets, and then there are graphics. Then, I started finding Martin Luther King."

Vergara's images capture King as a cultural icon. The exhibit includes photographs of murals in all types of neighborhoods, including predominately Latino and Asian communities.

"That's the idea of Martin Luther King as every man," Vergara says. "He can be Latino. He can be Chinese. He can look like Clark Gable, only a little darker. He can look like everything. And that, I thought, was really interesting."

While photographing the same neighborhoods for 30 years, roughly a generation, Vergara is able to show the evolution of neighborhood culture.

He notes the transition of icons from the '70s and '80s to today' from Malcolm X to Martin Luther King Jr. and, currently, President Barack Obama.

"You begin to see the connection of, here, we have Martin Luther King," Vergara says. Before Martin Luther King, we had Rosa Parks. And then, we have Obama, and there's a causal relationship. So you say, 'Rosa sat, so that Martin Luther could walk, so that Obama could run, so that we could all fly.'"

The exhibit culminates with photographs of street art involving President Obama.

The display continues at the New York Historical Society through May 5.

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