Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Newburgh: Portrait Of A City

I remember visiting Newburgh, NY as a child back in the mid sixties- when going "upstate" always meant scenic country vistas and small, idyllic towns. And Newburgh was one of many quaint and nearby towns that offered respite for a family on a tight budget wishing to escape the hot and grimy city. I last remember seeing it when I was sixteen, and by then, the economic toll it had already endured was clearly evident; it's tourist days had definitely slipped well into it's past.

Looking at Dmitri Kasterin's Newburgh: Portrait Of A City, a couple of names immediately come to mind, one being Milton Rogovin and the documentation of his hometown of Buffalo, NY- and the other, Bruce Davidson, famous for many a documentary project, amongst them E.100st, his essay documenting Spanish Harlem in the early sixties. Like the latter, Dmitri Kasterin was an outsider who arrived determined to see beyond the obvious, and to celebrate the humanity that has endured.

To be honest, I'm not exactly bowled over by many of these photographs, although there are gems to be found for sure (and love the combination used for the front and back cover). That said, there's something about these photographs that transcends art scenario limitations and draws me to them- perhaps because they dispense with artifice as their priority, or maybe it's just the subject's direct gaze that so effectively communicates and reveals... OK, OK, getting into dangerously subjective waters there. Fact is, I like this work as a whole for reasons I can't exactly elaborate (at least not yet)- and perhaps, perhaps there should be more of that vaguely unidentifiable, but most certainly human connection in any meaningful portraiture, photography, art.

Like Zoe Strauss, and other photographers mentioned of late, Mr. Kasterin has chosen to actively share and celebrate the mutual cooperation and effort that went into producing Newburgh: Portrait Of A City with the community at large, a community that has not particularly had much to celebrate the last few decades...

Photo: Dmitri Kasterin

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