The People’s Trust is a study of the changing financial institution, specifically the repurposed remains of 19th and 20th-century banks across the United States. The monumentality of these neoclassical facades stands in contrast with their new roles as liquor stores, pawnshops, churches, department stores, and pharmacies. The work is in keeping with Vahrenwald’s investigation of locations where landscape, politics, and economics intersect and poses questions as to what value can be derived from photographing the built world. In the case of The People’s Trust, layers of history and time are inscribed onto false fronts of capitalistic glory.
This project begins in Wall Street and gravitates outward through Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, Upper Manhattan, and across the United States.
The Project proposes that we can derive information about our culture and it’s present values through looking at the structures that host our financial transactions and their legacies.
“I am drawn to former bank buildings because of what they tell about our culture, past and of the present— much of it looks to a time when money was more local, banks spread out & anchoring individual communities, thousands of solid stone structures in the place of a handful of glass skyscrapers downtowns across the globe.
As I began photographing I couldn’t help but register the headstrong optimism in these buildings, the grandiose way in which they were fortresses built to last— all that in contradistinction to what they’re used for now. It fascinates me, that in their current state, these structures still project so much of their former authority.
The project’s not about what I like or don’t like, but about how odd these buildings are today in a world where the aesthetics (as well as the simple facts) of power, wealth, & class have all fundamentally changed.” (Michael Vahrenwald)
This book includes an essay by Wolfgang Scheppe and a poem by Richard Brautigan.
About the Author
Michael Vahrenwald is a photographer and co-founder of the publishing imprint ROMAN NVMERALS. His works have been published in The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, El Croquis, A+U, DOMa, Arch+, Dwell, Wallpaper, and Flash Art amongst others.
His works have been exhibited at the Whitney Museum, The Walker Art Center, The Carnegie Museum, and the Nerman Museum. He received a BFA from the Cooper Union and an MFA in Photography from Yale University. Michael has taught photography at The Cooper Union, Bard College, Sarah Lawrence College, The University of Hartford, and Yale University. He is represented by the photographic agency Esto.
Michael lives and works in The Bronx, New York.