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Twenty-five years old with a single camera body and lens in hand, Steven Rubin hitched a ride in 1982 to rural Somerset County in northwestern Maine and embarked on a project that would continue for more than 30 years.

Now a selection of the images Rubin captured during his decades-long project in this little-visited region of the U.S. will soon get a rare showing in Los Angeles. “Vacationland” goes up at the drkrm gallery from April 28 through May 26.

A graduate from Reed College with a degree in sociology, Rubin had originally come out to the East Coast from Oregon to enroll at the then Maine Photographic Workshops (now the Maine Media Workshops) in Rockport. After documenting the effects of the early 1980s recession on families nearby, he wanted to see how the economic downturn was being handled by locals far from the highways, historic lighthouses and second homes of the Maine coast. On a tip from a friend, Rubin headed inland and settled upon an abandoned shack as his home base and a schedule of hitching four to eight hours between the countryside to take pictures and Rockport to develop them.

Taking prints back to his subjects as a thank-you for their time and trust, Rubin was eventually let into the lives of local families—as well as some of their homes to crash on floors and couches—as he continued his work throughout Central Maine.

What he has witnessed is a part of the country largely unbuffeted by the usual economic ups and downs seen elsewhere. For many in the area times are always tough. According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, per capita income has been increasing in Somerset County but has ranked at or near the bottom among Maine’s 16 counties throughout the many years of Rubin’s project. Residents get by through resourcefully cobbling together seasonal and part-time jobs, hunting, fix-it know-how and the support of their communities.

“When I met some of these families, I was completely in awe of them in many ways,” said Rubin, now an assistant professor of art in the Photography Program at Penn State University. “I think as an outsider and someone who didn’t have the background that they did, I was really quite taken by how they survived, by their strength, by their resourcefulness.”

Rubin sought to avoid the stereotypes of people broken by their struggles or heroically pulling themselves up by their bootstraps. Influenced not only by legendary photographer Dorothea Lange but also anthropologist Clifford Geertz, Rubin aimed at creating a body of work that functioned as a “thick description,” a finely detailed document for understanding the context of human actions. Achieving that goal required time.

Since 1982, Rubin has returned to this project 10 times to capture daily rhythms and rituals and how the people he’d come to know changed, grew up, forged intense family bonds and frequently returned home despite finding good jobs elsewhere.

“I think so many of us—who move around different parts of the country, different parts of the world—we spend a lot of our lives looking for that sense of community. And these people have it,” Rubin said.

He’s planning to return again this summer to Maine, this time possibly shooting digitally rather than on his trusty Kodak Tri-X.

Steven Rubin’s photography has appeared in magazines including National Geographic, The New York Times, Stern and TIME. The series is on display at drkrm in Los Angeles, April 28 – May 26.

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An Indonesian ethnic Chinese man prays during the Chinese Lunar New Year celebration at Dharma Bakti temple in Chinatown in Jakarta, Indonesia, Monday, Jan. 23, 2012. Divers of the Nucleo Operatori Subacquei Guardia Costiera conduct a search and rescue operation that led to the discovery of the body of a woman inside of the ship [...]

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Meredith Birkett writes

As the death toll passed 600 Sunday and the crisis enters its fourth month, the epic floods that have overwhelmed two-thirds of Thailand have become -- by necessity -- everyday life for many Thais.

Gideon Mendel, a freelance photographer affiliated with Corbis, saw this firsthand on his trip to Thailand in mid-November.  While many have had to evacuate their homes and livelihoods, in locations where the water is more manageable at knee- and even waist-height, some Thais are living in their homes, running their businesses and even having fun – in the flood water.

After four months of flooding, a few feet of water isn't enough to keep some Thais from going about their daily lives

To explore the flooded areas, Mendel and his translator, Namfon Cutter, traveled in a four-wheel-drive vehicle west toward Myanmar through the water to the outskirts of Bangkok. Eventually water started covering the highway until they could go no farther. At that point, they worked with several boat captains to help them continue on to rural villages and suburbs to document the lives of the flood victims.

Mendel has covered many of the latest large flood events, from Pakistan and India to Australia and Haiti. But he has taken on this long-term project because he wants people to ask questions about why this flooding is happening. Is there a link to climate change?

Gideon Mendel / Corbis

Food vendors continue to ply their trade in the middle of rising water on the flooded Meenburi Road in the east of Bangkok. This is one part of Bangkok which has endured rising floodwaters over the past two weeks as the floodwaters which have inundated large parts of the country move through Bangkok towards the sea. Currently the water is knee high and these stallholders said that they will keep their street food carts open until the water is waist high.

The Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change meeting in Uganda this week says "yes."

AP reports: The panel said the world needs to get ready for more dangerous and "unprecedented extreme weather" caused by global warming. These experts fear that without preparedness, crazy weather extremes may overwhelm some locations, making some places unlivable. ...

For example, the report predicts that heat waves that are now once-in-a-generation events will become hotter and happen once every five years by mid-century and every other year by the end of the century. And in some places, such as most of Latin America, Africa and a good chunk of Asia, they will likely become yearly bakings.

A man reads a newspaper as he sits in his flooded shop in the Wijit Kolnimit Community of Bangkok. Thailand is experiencing the worst flooding in over 50 years which has affected more than nine million people.

The panel also mentioned the $200-billion-a-year economic impact of extreme weather, from personal losses to interruptions in global supply chains. But Mendel is more concerned about the human impact. “The poorer you are, the more vulnerable you are to flooding. The more your life can be destroyed by flooding,” Mendel says.

Despite the hardship he witnessed, Mendel was amazed by how friendly and open people were to being photographed, despite being caught at such a difficult time. Instead of finding people asking for money or help, he encountered a lot of ingenuity and human spirit to persevere.

Gideon Mendel / Corbis

Moo Baan Prapin runs a superstore in the Petronas gas station in the Taweewattana District, Bangkok. "It turns out that our business here after the water reached us is much better than when there was no water. We can sell a lot, my friend and I quite enjoy it. We at first put stuff in a plastic tub and floated it from house to house to sell stuff and that went really well but then I got bitten by a big leech. We both got really scared so we stopped doing that, instead we put stuff out in the front of the house and do our business at home, it works as well."

Death toll from Thailand's floods tops 600

More Photoblogs about Thailand

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