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LightBox on Tumblr is a window into the lens of LightBox, a blog by TIME’s photo department that explores how photography, video and the culture of images define today’s world.

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Photographer Camilo José Vergara has spent his career photographing the poorest and most segregated communities in urban America. As part of this work, Vergara has spent the last 30 years documenting murals and signs, many of them including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in cities across the U.S. Vergara’s unique visual record draws distinct categories of how Dr. King’s likeness appears in these hand-painted tributes: as the “everyman,” a mythic figure, defaced, with company in African American and Latino pantheons and, since 2009, alongside President Barack Obama.

On January 24th, Vergara will be exhibiting this work at the New York Historical Society. For more information about the show, visit nyhistory.org. See more of the work on LightBox here.

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