KINGSTON, N.Y. — Retired Freeman photographer Bob Haines died Friday, Nov. 4. He was 82.
Haines retired from the Freeman in 2006 after a 39-year career capturing the ups and downs both in Kingston and the Mid-Hudson region, starting in 1967 when the newspaper was still headquartered in a historic building at the foot of Broadway that now houses Mariner’s Harbor Restaurant and apartments.
During his career, Haines photographed everything from local business ribbon cuttings to the Bill Clinton-Boris Yeltsin mini-summit in Hyde Park in 1995. He shot photos of movie stars including Dustin Hoffman and Jessica Lange who were in Ulster County filming the movie “Tootsie”, and of Barbra Streisand and Walter Mathou, during the filming of “Hello Dolly.” He even got the opportunity to photograph his childhood idol, Mickey Mantle, lamenting that he didn’t think to ask anyone to take a photo of him with the baseball great.
In the 2021 interview, Haines recalled the transition from 35mm film to digital photography and how no longer having to wait for film to develop in a dark room took the guesswork out of capturing the essence of the person or situation.
“The hardest part was getting the attitude I wanted to create, to show the mood of what was happening,” Haines said last year.
“I was always behind the camera, never in front of the lens,” he said in a 2021 interview as the Freeman celebrated its 150th anniversary.
High school sports games, he said, were his favorite assignments. “I didn’t know anything about sports,” he said, “but I liked the action.”
“That was all part of the job, I guess, you never knew one day to the next what was going to happen,” Haines said, laughing that he knew every politician in the Freeman’s four-county coverage area by their first name.
Haines said in the 2021 interview that his toughest assignments were photographing people during the darkest moments of their lives, like fatal car crashes, fires where families lost everything or when taking photos of people accused of crimes or those grieving over the loss of loved ones.
After graduating from Kingston High School in 1959, Haines served in the U.S. Navy from 1959 to 1964. While serving, he said he admired photographs of airplanes landing and taking off from aircraft carriers.
He later took a course in a naval photography school that turned into a job taking aerial photos.
A lifelong rail enthusiast and history buff, Haines first picked up a box camera to document the dieselization of area railroads in the 1940s, snapping photos of steam locomotives his father Hildreth ran before they disappeared from area rails for good.
Later in retirement, he collected rare photographs dating back to the 1800s.
Many of Haines’s photos have been featured in Blausweiss Media’s various documentaries and books documenting Kingston’s history like Baluweiss and Karen Berelowitz’s book “The Story of Historic Kingston.”
“I could not have done any of the work with regard to the local history of Kingston without Bob Haines’ participation,” Stephen Blauweiss said.
Blauweiss said he first met Haines while working on the “Lost Rondout: A Story of Urban Renewal” documentary, and he could always count on Haines to come up with another photo or tidbit about area history like the Seal College straight away whenever he called.
“He let us use the little bit of footage we had of the demolition of the Cornell building,” Blauweiss said.
Blauweiss said Haines along with Gene Dauner, documented the final runs of the Ulster and Delaware and Wallkill Valley railroad branches. He noted Haines’ enthusiasm for trains extended to the Kingston Model Railroad Club, where he built many of the buildings. Haines is even featured in Blauweiss Media’s short film “Kingston Model Train Club.”
“There won’t be any more assignments,” Haines said in a September 2006 interview at the time of his retirement.“That is kind of a downer. … It will be like, ‘What now, coach?”