A Photo Story on Miami in retrospect

Time’s Photo Essay from December of 2014

If an ordinary picture is worth a thousand words, then a really old picture is worth a million. One photo story I found takes a look at Miami through the years. The series draws from content taken between 1930 and 2003.

Brenda Ann Kenneally, the photographer on the Time’s December 2013 story, began taking photos in Miami in the 1980’s and after returning about 20 years later was astounded by the differences. She set out to collect more pictures and eventually produced a series detailing the life experiences of Miami residents of the past. The series also highlights the racial contrasts in society.
There are 29 photos in the series that vary qualitatively. Most aren’t that great. The majority of the shots are taken from roughly the same boring front view angle of some person in a strange or retro outfit. However there are a few, particularly among the black and white photos that truly stand out. The high contrast level and content balance in those photographs really catch the eye. There is one black and white photo of a man in a ticket booth. The shot is lined up perfectly so that the anonymous man’s face is perfectly hidden by the sound gap built into the ticket window. It was a good move for the photo because it makes this random ticket vendor a faceless entity.

The photos themselves in the web format are cycled through manually at the top of the page. A brief story was contributed by reporter Richard Conway. It’s good and goes really well with the photos, but I am concerned that most people would either skip or give up on the reading and only focus on the photos since the two entities are compartmentalized on the page. A better idea might be to break up the story and make it so that a new graph is revealed every time a photo is cycled through.

Another draw is the fact that the photos don’t have captions. While I agree that letting them stand alone is a good idea, I would have liked more information on who took the photos.

All things considered the photo essay had a balance to it and really did tell a story about old life in Miami. I’ve only spent a little time in Miami myself but after viewing the piece I can sense a distinction in the old and new cultures.

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