Caught in the American Daydream

A portrait of a region

There are many Americas. There is an America of white picket fences. There is an America of towering skyscrapers. There is the America of dusty plains, cowboys, and ranches. There is an America of cliffs and beaches and sun-kissed surfers. And then there is the America just beyond these postcards, idyllic in its landscape but largely unfamiliar. It is not a land of plenty, nor opportunity, yet it is America nonetheless.
Photographer Danny Ghitis happened upon one of these regions in 2012: Dutchess County. Just a few miles north of New York City, Dutchess was once a thriving area with successful iron mining and dairy-farming industries that have long since gone. “There are small pockets of wealth exported from the big city ... and feeble attempts at small-town tourism,” Ghitis said, noting the economic divide between the western and eastern areas, the latter of which he photographed. “Mostly, the Harlem Valley exists in between the past and future.”
Ghitis spent roughly two years wandering through the parts of this region that are trapped in limbo, photographing moments that “triggered memories.” The images look at first like snapshots in a family album: warm, straightforward. Further investigation reveals that something is not quite right. One might recognize an image of a full fridge and think: “I’ve seen this before. I know this.” A second look reveals that the fridge is packed with animal parts. This dissonance gives the images a dream-like quality: They are simultaneously ordinary and bizarre.
He is publishing the photo essay in a book entitled Deep Valley, Dark Days, and has allowed us to publish some of the his images from this area where the American Dream came and went. “The region has a sympathetic story that seemed to echo my own: the challenge of answering ‘what’s next?’ after significant change,” Ghitis said.