Newburgh: Beauty and Tragedy
In 1996 I went to Newburgh as a photographer. In 2012 a book of my photographs was published and mural size prints were put up on the wall of the Ritz Theater. Today they are still displayed there.
During the summers of 2015 and 2016 I shot a documentary film in downtown Newburgh featuring the black residents of the city, some of whom were my subjects for the book and exhibition. Making a film to reveal the hardships suffered by individuals and families, to give a voice to families who live in constant danger, often in uninhabitable houses is, I believe, a compelling way of showing what is actually happening to the fabric, the infrastructure and the people of Newburgh.
I was making a film but I continued being a photographer as I walked the streets with my assistants. I asked friends and strangers that caught my eye to stand still and look into the camera while I filmed them. In the editing I slowed the film down to add to the stillness.
FILMING NEWBURGH WITH COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT
Dmitri's work in Newburgh could not have happened without the participation of the people of the city. From subjects who agreed to have their photos taken, to high school interns who mounted the Ritz Theater wall exhibit, to passersby, who offered support and were interviewed for the film—for over 20 years Newburghians have encouraged him to capture the beauty found on its streets.
The film crew consisted of three apprentices from Newburgh. They were instructed on how to use a sound recorder and about the responsibilities of an assistant producer. Most importantly, they helped grant an ease of passage through the streets, and in the process learned how to make a film that was important to them. The idea for a number of sequences in the film came from the film crew, and were organized by them.
With funds raised through Kickstarters, we were able to pay the apprentices a good wage and offer meals during shoots. By including our crew in the editing of the film, they continued to receive training and be paid for their work. And they shaped the story they recorded.
Newburgh: Portrait of a City
Published by W.W. Norton
Kasterine took to photographing this city, producing a great many wonderful portraits, and it is now our duty to look at them. With photography having become a bit too self-centered, a bit too focused on navels and on often petty dramas that don't invoke anyone but the photographer, this book might serve as a good reminder that there is a world out there, and itcs not necessarily a pretty world.
It's not necessarily a pretty world, but it will give those who look and care the gift of being able to make wonderful photographs—photographs that are wonderful because of their beauty, and that are wonderful because they show that someone has an interest in the human condition beyond the walls of their own home. This then might make us, the viewers, take an interest as well.
Newburgh: On The Ritz Theater
Located in Newburgh, NY
Kasterine won't fail to notice the discrete changes, moment to moment, in the way you want yourself to look to others. He'll pay attention to the way your eye darts left when you're uncomfortable; right when you're taken with something he said about you, and then as you settle into some calm he'll shoot your portrait.
All that is plenty evident in the 43 large, vinyl portraits on display on the wall of the historic Ritz Theater off Liberty Street in downtown Newburgh. (Please click here for directions.)