ABOUT THE PROJECT: Wild Place is the English translation of Wiltwyck, the original name given to Kingston, New York, in 1661 by the Dutch who were facing fierce resistance from local Native Americans. My wife Tereza and I recently moved back to Kingston after a decade away and can see and sense a lot of changes, with more to come. It seems like an important moment. As a documentary photographer and artist I am very interested in understanding our community and finding connections that remind us of our shared humanity in the midst of transition. By shooting a series of portraits and video interviews of folks from all walks of Kingston life, I’m doing just that. There are more artists per capita here than any city in America, according to BusinessWeek, and a large number of young people, families and retirees arriving every week from New York City, Austin, Seattle and even San Francisco. There are a host of new world-class restaurants, small tech startups and new factory to loft conversions. This growth means that the challenge of gentrification is rising along with income disparity. Concerns about these changes are apparent in some interviews, which you can watch below. When I look back on the places we’ve lived over the years it was always the relationships that made a place our home - this project is starting to make us feel at home. Thanks to everyone who has participated and to those who participate in the future.
A special thanks to artist Deborah Mills Thackrey for producing the project.
Nicki Tha Great
“I'm trying to be a pop star. And when I accomplish that, because I will, I'm planning on coming back to Kingston and going back to the high school and really helping that.”
Who are you? My name is Dominique. You might know me as Nicki Tha Great. I'm a musician. And that's it.
How long have you been in Kingston? I lived in Kingston five years and I just graduated high school last June.
What gives you joy about Kingston? I think the people, mostly. Not all of them are great, but there are some that I think are truly something special. And I'm hoping they soon realize that.
What, if anything, would you change about Kingston? Well, considering I spent most of my time in high school. I'd probably change something there. And one thing I would change is the social dynamic. There's like this weird hierarchy. Like who's most important and who's not. And I think it really takes away from the experience for a lot of kids and it sucks. If you're a prep, you're important. Like, to the school. Do you know what I'm saying? So if you do sports, you know, you're important. You can get away with certain things that other kids can't. If you're popular amongst the students, you get treated better. You can bully somebody and everybody's going to laugh because you're cool. And no one's going to say anything about you bullying somebody, which is terrible. Do you think artists are outsiders? Yeah. Oh my god, yeah. Especially in high school. Yeah, the arts kids, they're so cool, but arts kids are usually kind of weird and stuff, so no one pays them any mind. But if you take the time to talk to them, you see that they're the most interesting people. And the most popular kids are probably the most boring. No offense.
What is your secret hope for the future? Obviously I'm trying to be a pop star. And when I accomplish that, because I will, I'm planning on coming back to Kingston and going back to the high school and really helping that. And obviously I want to make a new branch for music kids and arts kids so ... you know what I'm saying? Because they're important. So yeah, that's what I want to change.
Follow @NickiThaGreat on Instagra
“My deep, heartfelt desire is to get to the point where I can start being part of the rare few that are innovating and adding something to the story of food somewhere, somehow.”
Who are you? My name is Chris Turgeon, and I'm the Executive Chef here at Wilde Beest.
How long have you been in Kingston? I've been in Kingston specifically for about eight months now. I am a habitual nomad. I really am from nowhere. I'm 35 years old and I've had 38 addresses, but I'm here by way of Chicago and Austin, Texas.
What gives you joy about Kingston? I like what's happening in Kingston right now. I like the intersection of culture. There's a lot of ex-patriots from the city and that's kind of running over a backbone of local folks. The way people seem to appreciate art in general here. There's kind of an unusual gathering of culture. Reminds me a lot of the way Austin felt when I first moved there in 2010. Kingston's got that same feeling. There's still opportunity here. You know, it's affordable for me, which is a big deal. And it's a cool place to be. And the longer I've been here, you know, it really is truly a small town. Folks know each other, and there's some surprising opportunities inherent to that, to how personal it can be. I think for me personally it's that I'll shine a little more than I might somewhere else. A little easier to stand out, a little harder to get lost in the mix. So, yeah, that's what I like about Kingston.
What, if anything, would you change about Kingston? I think there's an unfortunate number of open spaces in some areas. We're in the stockade district and there's some notably large holes in the street here. And I think there's some community anchor type businesses that could be a real asset to the community, and to anchoring, you know in particular Wall Street as a hub of the community. You know, I know a lot of that's been soaked up by outside investment. I'd love it if they became viable businesses and beautiful store front across the street that would be perfect for a local market of some kind. But Kingston's pretty cool, man. The parking situation could improve a little bit. How about that?
What is your secret hope for the future? When you start off your career as a cook, everything about what you do is dictation. You're being told exactly what now. And you cross a certain threshold with that understanding, and you start to get some points on the horizon to navigate by and you start to be able to learn by imitation. So you start imitating the people around you and ahead of you. And then if you're successful with that, then you start to understand enough of the puzzle to start to be able to build your own puzzles. So you start creation. And I think the vast majority of chefs in the world, end their careers there. My deep, heartfelt desire is to get to the point where I can start being part of the rare few that are innovating and adding something to the story of food somewhere, somehow. I'm in that process right now of actually saying my piece. And I think after a couple of years of listening to myself here, I'll hopefully have something to say that's relevant. So that's what I'm hoping.
Visit Wilde Beest
Deborah Mills Thackrey
“I moved from Silicon Valley to Kingston about 6 and a half years ago, and it's the best thing I ever did.”
Who are you? I'm Deborah Mills Thackery. I'm a photographic artist, and I'm currently exploring printing my mostly abstract images on fabric and then doing all kinds of things with that.
How long have you been in Kingston? I moved from Silicon Valley to Kingston about 6 and a half years ago, and it's the best thing I ever did.
What gives you joy about Kingston? I love the atmosphere, the old houses, the history, the Hudson River is amazing, being close to the mountains, nature, but mostly the arts community here has just been amazing for me. I feel like I'm in my element.
What, if anything, would you change about Kingston? I don't know. Thinking about what I would change about Kingston is ... I'd have to put some thought into it. I do feel there are so many pluses, but maybe there are a little bit of distance between the different communities. And I think people are working on bringing people together and that's a part of the area that I really enjoy, but, you know, I don't like it when I feel like people are isolated into different camps.
What is your secret hope for the future? Gee, my secret hope for my future. I just want to continue to try to create beauty in the world, and find ways to experiment and explore, and find things that feed my soul, which I feel like I've been lucky to have a little bit a taste of that recently.
Visit Deborah’s site: Deborah Mills Thackrey