NEWBURGH: BEAUTY AND TRAGEDY
I began taking pictures in Newburgh in 1996. It wasn't Newburgh's reputation that drew me there, but the beauty of the people and its abandoned buildings. This beauty held me and I returned regularly with my camera for 22 years.
In 2012 a book of my photographs of African Americans living in downtown Newburgh was published and an exhibition mounted on the wall of the Ritz theater. Soon after that I began making a film consisting of a collection of interviews and discussions together with glimpses of life and houses in ruins.
I apprenticed two young people I met in the streets of the city to be my sound recordists and assistants. Incorporating my still photographs and a commentary of what drew me to the subjects, I have given a voice to families and individuals who live in constant danger, often in uninhabitable houses, a city where education has faltered, where there are no jobs to speak of — only drug dealing. We hear what is actually happening to the fabric and people of Newburgh. Now, just in this last 18 months, they are facing another crisis: a determined program of gentrification.
The film's story unfolds as a dialogue, outside conventional narrative. Dmitri's photography reveals the quiet dignity that exists on Newburgh's harsh streets, allowing viewers see the city, with all its beauty and tragedy, as those who live there do.
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.)