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Wild Place: Nicki Tha Great
A conversation with Nicki Tha Great about what makes Kingston, New York Great

Doug Menuez by Doug Menuez on May 17, 2019

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.

“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.”

- Nicki Tha Great

DM: Who are you?

NTG: 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?

NTG: I lived in Kingston five years and I just graduated high school last June.

What gives you joy about Kingston?

DMT: 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?

NTG: 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?

NTG: 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 Instagram.

All images above ©2019 Doug Menuez. All rights reserved.

More About Doug Menuez

Doug MenuezDocumentary photographer and director Doug Menuez once stood at the North Pole, crossed the Sahara, had tea with Stalin's daughter and held a chunk of Einstein's brain. Quitting his blues band in 1981, he began his career freelancing for Time, LIFE, Newsweek, Fortune, USA Today, the New York Times Magazine and many other publications. He covered the AIDS crisis, homelessness in America, politics, five Super Bowls and the Olympics. His portrait assignments included Presidents Bush, Sr. and Clinton, Cate Blanchett, Robert Redford, Lenny Kravitz, Mother Teresa, Jane Goodall and Hugh Jackman. His award-winning advertising campaigns and corporate projects for global brands include Chevrolet, FedEx, Nikon, GE, Chevron, HP, Coca Cola, Emirates Airlines, Charles Schwab and Microsoft.

More About Doug Menuez