Photographer Caleb Stein’s personal ode to Poughkeepsie, New York. Like many small American towns that have faced deindustrialization and outsourcing, Poughkeepsie underwent a significant downturn in the early 1990s when one of IBM’s main headquarters shutdown, leaving thousands unemployed. While Stein grew up in big cities, with the kind of “mythologized ideas of Americanness” that springs from things like Normal Rockwell illustrations, he spent years walking the three-mile stretch of Poughkeepsie’s Main Street, attempting to reconcile his experiences with his preconceptions.
The project took a marked turn following the 2016 election, becoming about more than just interrogating the myth of America. As Stein explains, the work became about grappling with the tension of that political moment through photography:
“It was during this time that I started going to the watering hole, an Eden tucked away behind the local drive-in movie theater on the outskirts of town. The watering hole became a central component of the project because it represented an idyllic space where people from all walks of life came together and let their guard down. The more time I spent at the watering hole, the more I wanted to convey the struggles and beauties of this town with care and tenderness.”
See more from “Down by the Hudson” below.