The Hudson Valley has been a refuge for New York creatives almost as long as the city has existed. Raina Kattelson, a prop and interiors stylist who two decades ago traded in city life for a house 90 miles north near Kingston, knew that there was a thriving pool of photographers, makers and stylists in the area, and had long thought of creating a network to connect them. “I was always so busy with work, and life just gets in the way,” says Kattelson. But when the city came to a grinding halt a few months ago, she decided the time was right to formally create Hudson Valley Image Makers.
Comprising photographers, creative directors and stylists, Kattelson’s new organization aims to create a more viable industry for those trades in the Hudson Valley, in addition to networking opportunities for its members. “While most of us will still need to travel for work when things start opening back up, I think there is an opportunity to solidify what we can do in this area,” she says. “It’s still affordable to live up here, and I know a number of photographers who gave up their studios in the city and moved them to the Hudson Valley because they couldn’t afford New York anymore.” In its first month, HVIM has grown to include 50 members who live in the region full- or part-time. Many were surprised to learn just how many people in their industry had homes near them. “There are full crews living up here,” she adds.
On the group’s Instagram, Kattelson hands over the account to a different member every week, giving them a platform to showcase their work. “I think it’s important that we’re able to promote each other during this time,” she says. Connecting members and giving them a chance to collaborate is part of HVIM’s mission. During the lockdown, for example, she has been renting her collection of props to local photographers so they can continue to do editorial work. “Being connected in this new way has allowed a lot of us to keep working.”
As in many industries, working remotely during the pandemic has expanded the thinking around which work really needs to be done in person. Teaming up with a photographer and a food stylist (while practicing social distancing and other safety measures), Kattelson has been moving forward with styling jobs, sending the client the photos as they go. “Clients don’t always need to be on set, and I think they’re starting to see that,” she says. She also points out that the Hudson Valley will likely get the all clear to reopen well before Manhattan returns to anything resembling normal. “I don’t think it will be as hard to push for work to be done up here,” she says. “Commercially and editorially, I think we could see a lot of clients looking to this region to help them meet production deadlines.”
Kattelson points to the increasing number of film productions that have been taking place in the Hudson Valley over the past few years as something she hopes to emulate. “We have amazing locations, both interior and exterior, and plenty of photo studios,” she says. “There’s no reason that shoots of any size can’t be done here.”
Homepage photo: A vignette styled by Raina Kattelson for Hudson Valley brands Black Creek Mercantile and Paula Grief Ceramics| William Geddes