"I have a horrible memory, so photography has always been a great way for me to remember things and gauge the passing of time," says Angelina Dreem, the photographer who captured this month's cover image and the photos for the Hudson Community Pages (page 36). "I have become really fascinated with capturing situations that are happening in normal life and the iconography of American cities and towns."
Dreem grew up in a home of hobby photographers, playing with cameras and lenses, snapping shots, and honing her eye over time. But it was lockdown that finally coalesced Dreem's decades-long fascination with photography into a coherent professional pursuit. After founding and running Powrplnt, an educational nonprofit teaching teens digital art and design skills in Brooklyn, Dreem moved to Hudson two years ago. "I ended up in the Hudson Valley and started capturing what it is to exist here right now," she says, "to find little moments and landscapes that can capture the beauty in it."
She had done some lifestyle and product photography for businesses in Hudson, but photographing the community for Chronogram offered Dreem a new level of access to her community. "It helped me feel like I had a sense of purpose. It gave me a degree of entitlement," Dreem says. "I was like, 'Oh, I'm going to use this as an excuse to engage with people. I felt a degree of intimacy and vulnerability that me, just walking by with my dog, wasn't able to break through to before." Starting at the farmers' market on 7th Street one Wednesday morning in August, Dreem cruised through the city on her bike, hopping on and off to take photos along the way, until reaching the waterfront. "I wanted no inhibitions between me and the moment," she says of taking her bicycle. "It was nice, I could stop and veer off and find people."
Lately, Dreem's personal aesthetic evolution—plus sensitivity around consent—has her gravitating toward portraits rather than anonymous street photography. "I feel like good photography is a mix of getting the consent to capture someone's image and then also being invisible enough that they don't feel the pressure of someone watching them for a photo," she says. "I also just love people acknowledging the camera and looking at it, like 'yeah, this is me.' That is a more interesting image to me. Photography is a process of falling in love and letting that love be part of the engagement."
Dreem certainly connected with her subjects. Her day of photography included being offered fries, going on a boat ride to the Hudson-Athens lighthouse, and even extracting a fish hook from a catfish's mouth. When she approached a man at the waterfront who had just caught the large fish, Dreem thought she had stumbled upon a perfect photo op. "I was like this is a great shot—it's perfect, human. He had this big ass catfish," she says with a laugh. "But he ended up being kind of afraid of the fish. He had it on the ground and couldn't get the hook out. I ended up participating and giving my camera to this kid. It would've been a good shot, but whatever, I got to show off how good I was at taking hooks out and help the guy. And then I smelled like fish. Luckily, there's hand sanitizer everywhere."
Photographic proof or no, the anecdote seems to fit the theme of Dreem's day and her experience with shooting in general: "It's really fun when you're not thinking about yourself. You can experience life and tell people's stories." Chronogram's community pages photographers don't often live in the communities that they shoot, so Dreem's insider access adds a dimension of intimacy to the photos. "The vibe was really good that day," she says. "Everyone has been kind of hiding or reclusive, so having a moment to be like, 'Yes, I'm participating, I'm here, I exist. Thank you for noticing,' was really nice."