6-30. South Beach, Miami Beach 1977-1986
My graduate thesis exhibition consisted of South Beach photographs, but I had barely scratched the surface. I planned to return home to spend a decade living among and photographing the elderly Jewish people during what I knew would be their last years. I did this to the day, and then it was gone. If the average age was 81 or 82 when I began, a decade later it was between 18 and 28.
The yearly and seasonal residents of South Beach aged right along with the hundreds of small hotels and apartment buildings that housed them. With roots extending back to the shtetls of Eastern Europe, survivors of the Czarist pogroms and the Nazi holocaust immigrated to America mostly through Ellis Island. After a hundred years of turmoil and toil, they established South Beach as the last resort. These elderly Jewish men and women lived communally throughout the isolated small-scale neighborhood in Miami Beach, taking advantage of the tropical climate. Facing the adversity of old age, they lived in accord with their religious faith until the advent of the art deco craze. By 1987 the community’s tight fabric was loose, becoming unwoven and unrecognizable. A few years later it was gone as if it never existed.