In 19th and early 20th century America, fledging banks depended on conveying stability and trust to their customers. That usually meant architecture—and the construction of pint-sized Greek and Roman monuments in towns all over the country.
"Money was more local," explains photographer Michael Vahrenwald, whose series The People's Trust captures these structures in their present-day form. "Banks spread out and [anchored] individual communities, thousands of solid stone structures in the place of a handful of glass skyscrapers downtowns across the globe." Of course, the days of small local banking are long gone, and many of these grand structures have been sold off into commercial real estate: Today, they host things like McDonalds, CVS, wig shops, and even churches.
Iowa-born, New York-based Vahrenwald has spent three years photographing these former symbols of financial security, found everywhere from the Bronx to Detroit. He explains in an artist's statement:
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 the how odd these building are today in a world where the aesthetics (as well as the simple facts) of power, wealth, & class have all fundamentally changed
The Provident Loan Society of New York, Brooklyn, NY, 2011:
Apple Savings Bank, Bronx, NY 2013:
The First National City Bank of New York, NY, 2011:
Unknown, Detroit, MI 2012:
Highland Park State Bank, Detroit, MI 2012:
Unknown, CVS, New York, NY, 2012:
North Side Savings Bank, Bronx, NY, 2011:
The People's Trust, Brooklyn, NY, 2011:
Untitled, Detroit, MI 2012:
Cicero Trust and Savings Bank, Cicero, IL, 2012:
Lincoln Savings Bank, Brooklyn, NY 2011:
Detroit Savings Bank, Detroit, MI 2012: