Down by the Hudson

  • Dates
    2014 - Ongoing
  • Author
  • Location Poughkeepsie, United States

‘Down by the Hudson’ is my personal ode to an Edenic creek in Poughkeepsie, NY, a small town in New York State where I lived, on and off, between 2013 - 2022 and where I continue to make work.

‘Down by the Hudson’ is my personal ode to a creek in Poughkeepsie, NY, a small town in New York State where I lived, on and off, between 2013 - 2022. The work is the product of collaborative relationships with the people I photograph. With each of the photographs I want to convey a lyrical, loving expression of the playful exchanges between me, the photographer, and the people I’m photographing. These photographic exchanges can lead to something that feels like a transcendental clarity, vulnerability, and tenderness.

This work cannot exist apart from its political context. In 2016, the presidential and local elections were almost neck-and-neck between political parties in Poughkeepsie, to the point where you could have fit the difference into a bar on a Saturday night. The day after the election, the sense of tension and conflict became palpable as I walked down Poughkeepsie's Main Street. I learned that in the 1990s, IBM's local headquarters downsized and left thousands unemployed. In many ways, Poughkeepsie is like countless other small American towns grappling with the effects of post-industrialization. This heated political moment marked a turning point for this project. It wasn’t only about understanding this mythologized conception of America, but it was also about grappling with this conflict through photography and its extraordinary capacity to bridge specific moments and details with broader notions of the universal and the collective.

It was during this time that I started going to a local watering hole, a modern-day Eden tucked away behind a drive-in movie theater on the outskirts of town. The watering hole became a central component of my work 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. For several years I photographed at this watering hole, developing close relationships with many of the people I collaborated with and sharing the work with them as it developed. I became fascinated by the ways in which people carried themselves in this space, how the natural environment brought people together; in fact, county regulations forbid people from gathering in this space, and so the whole experience of simply being at this watering hole is informed by this sense of joyfully illicit activity.

© Caleb Stein - Bode and Owen Wrestling. The Watering Hole. Poughkeepsie, NY. 2022.
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Bode and Owen Wrestling. The Watering Hole. Poughkeepsie, NY. 2022.

© Caleb Stein - Sherika & Sanjay. The Watering Hole. Poughkeepsie, NY. 2020
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Sherika & Sanjay. The Watering Hole. Poughkeepsie, NY. 2020

© Caleb Stein - Matthew, Jackson and Oden. The Watering Hole. Poughkeepsie, NY. 2018.
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Matthew, Jackson and Oden. The Watering Hole. Poughkeepsie, NY. 2018.

© Caleb Stein - Shamus in Embryo Pose. The Watering Hole. Poughkeepsie, NY. 2022.
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Shamus in Embryo Pose. The Watering Hole. Poughkeepsie, NY. 2022.

© Caleb Stein - Statue in Water. The Watering Hole. Poughkeepsie, NY. 2020
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Statue in Water. The Watering Hole. Poughkeepsie, NY. 2020

© Caleb Stein - Log in Rain. The Watering Hole. Poughkeepsie, NY. 2020
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Log in Rain. The Watering Hole. Poughkeepsie, NY. 2020

© Caleb Stein - Michael & His Friend Embracing. The Watering Hole. Poughkeepsie, NY. 2020
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Michael & His Friend Embracing. The Watering Hole. Poughkeepsie, NY. 2020

© Caleb Stein - TaeShawn. The Watering Hole. Poughkeepsie, NY. 2020.
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TaeShawn. The Watering Hole. Poughkeepsie, NY. 2020.

© Caleb Stein - Forrest Portal. The Watering Hole. 2022.
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Forrest Portal. The Watering Hole. 2022.

© Caleb Stein - Leo, Lexi, Lily, Willa. The Watering Hole. Poughkeepsie, NY. 2022.
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Leo, Lexi, Lily, Willa. The Watering Hole. Poughkeepsie, NY. 2022.

© Caleb Stein - Braily. Statue in Water. The Watering Hole. Poughkeepsie, NY. 2020
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Braily. Statue in Water. The Watering Hole. Poughkeepsie, NY. 2020

© Caleb Stein - Matthew & Oden. The Watering Hole. 2018
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Matthew & Oden. The Watering Hole. 2018

© Caleb Stein - The Watering Hole. 2020.
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The Watering Hole. 2020.

© Caleb Stein - Frog in Cosmos. 2021.
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Frog in Cosmos. 2021.

© Caleb Stein - Emily & Belinda. The Watering Hole. 2018.
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Emily & Belinda. The Watering Hole. 2018.

© Caleb Stein - Boys Playing With Their Huskie. The Watering Hole. 2018.
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Boys Playing With Their Huskie. The Watering Hole. 2018.

© Caleb Stein - Erin & His Friends. The Watering Hole. 2018.
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Erin & His Friends. The Watering Hole. 2018.

© Caleb Stein - Skyler & Malickai. The Watering Hole. 2020.
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Skyler & Malickai. The Watering Hole. 2020.

© Caleb Stein - Anthony & Friends. The Watering Hole. 2022.
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Anthony & Friends. The Watering Hole. 2022.