Poking Around with Pokémon

One Ulster County photographer is using the popular game to send a message

By the time you read this, the Pokémon Go craze may have joined Angry Birds, Candy Crush Saga, and dozens of other techno-fads on the virtual ash heap of history. But Pokémon Go will have something all those others don’t: an artistic record of its grip on a small corner of the Hudson Valley. 

Photographer Mike McGregor of New Paltz shot a series of portraits exploring the Pokémon Go phenomenon in and around Ulster County. Using his own two children, Ashton, 9, and Helena, 6, their friends, and other kids recruited through Craigslist, McGregor, 37, documented the inherent conflict between playing outdoors and using a screen to do it. 

“My son, like everybody’s son, has been playing it madly,” McGregor says. “I thought it was amazing how he and his friends were going to all these weird places in parts of my community I had never been to before. You hear so many people saying technology is taking over from reality and no one is spending time outdoors, but this is kind of pushing us in the opposite direction.” 

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That direction, according to McGregor, has led them to some pretty spectacular locations, such as the caves at the Snyder Estate in Rosendale, where cement was once produced. “It is truly an other-worldly place,” he says. Getting his kids and their friends to participate wasn’t hard. He just said, “‘Want to go play Pokémon?’”

McGregor, whose work has appeared in Newsweek, People, the London Times, and many other publications, isn’t sure what he’ll do with his Pokémon project. “I will release them to the photo blogs to start, and see where it goes from there,” he says. “I am doing it because I am interested in it. The images are not necessarily about Pokémon. They are about how technology can foster exploration.”

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