In a 1997 interview with Reader critic Fred Camper, photographer Camilo Jose Vergara recalled Chicago in the mid-60s as “much more built-up than now.” Gradually he noticed places with derelict buildings were becoming “huge empty lots.” Soon he was photographing neighborhoods in Chicago, Detroit, New York, and other urban areas, returning to the same spots several times over years to record the changing landscape. He called his 1995 collection, The New American Ghetto, “the story of a country that was throwing away its cities.” A new book, American Ruins, comes out later this month. Vergara will take part in a panel discussion–“Have We Become an Old City?”–today at 2:30, then he’ll discuss “The Future of Chicago’s Ghettos” in a slide lecture at 5:15. Both events are at the Chicago Historical Society, Clark at North. Admission to the panel discussion is $5; the slide lecture is free. Both events are part of the second and final weekend of the Chicago Humanities Festival. Call 312-661-1028 for more information.