Heather Elder Represents
Reps Journal

Doug Menuez Documents the Changing Face of Kingston, NY

Under the radar from the city of Kingston at large, Doug Menuez‘s “Wild Place” is a years-long series, a positive voice for what he sees and who he meets in his beloved hometown. Clients choose Doug for his photojournalistic style and ability to deliver authenticity, capturing the moments that others might not. This collection illustrates that approach.

And, this inconspicuous ongoing series is not so clandestine any longer. The internationally renowned Center for Photography, formerly located in Woodstock, NY, will now be relocating to Kingston. Doug’s series will be the grand-opening exhibit at the center and will simultaneously show at photographer Aaron Rezny’s gallery.

How has this project changed throughout the years?

When I started this collection years ago, I was interested in the young and up-and-coming artists and creators coming to Kingston. I feel empathy for them, having gone through this myself when I first came back to town. I started with environmental portraits and interviewing people. But, I increasingly found that I like to go beyond that. I end up documenting everything I see that is related to the person. I’ll create a photo essay, combined with portrait, street photography, and a video interview. 

In my latest work, I’ve started to include a broader spectrum of people from different walks of life. As the town grows and changes, I want to document that shift. 

“I’m building a map of the human face of the town.”

What were your most memorable moments on this project?

This historic river town is reinventing so fast with all of the big city refugees coming in. There is a lot of diversity, and gentrification is a hot topic nowadays. One moment that inspired me was meeting a mechanic who is considering a run for mayor. As a forward-thinking car guy, he felt he wanted to be sure he was represented in this community, especially given the dramatic shift in population he was seeing. I wanted to be sure his images reflected who he was.

Then, when I was photographing another artist in an old dutch church, I heard the voice of an angel — just incredible singing. I found Hayley practicing her opera and knew she needed to be my next shoot. That’s what I love about this project. It’s storytelling, where one thread leads me to another person in the community. “I’m building a map of the human face of the town.”

Instead of shooting a quick project with Hayley, I shot a concert that she gave. To prepare for the shoot, I researched her, and interviewed her, learning about her interests and personality beyond singing, and then using that information to tell her story through imagery.

What do you want people to take away after seeing this collection?

To me, small-town America, cities like Kingston interest me. I’ve always documented Americana using a photojournalistic style, bringing the reality of everyday lives and highlighting humanity. I want people to feel the surprise I always have at the joy, creativity, and fascinating people found in this beat-up old river town.

We often tell up-and-coming photographers who can’t afford to travel, to shoot in their own backyard. I am practicing what I preach by shooting local. These are authentic, real people, a method I use in the commercial space, where we cast real people, communicating a genuine lifestyle. I bring curiosity, empathy, and humility to my commercial work, just as I continue to do in “Wild Place.” 

Click here for more imagery from this series. Follow Doug on Instagram for more imagery illustrating what we all have in common.