© Michael Carlebach

#1: Cigar maker, Key West, Florida, 1972
#2: South Beach Pier, Florida, 1977
#3: Chris Dundee, Fifth Street Gym, Miami Beach, 1981
#4: South Miami Beach, Florida, 1971

Before Art Basel, Miami Beach and “Miami Vice,” there was another South Florida.

It was cheesier, scarier, goofier and much closer to the bone. Times Square with alligators. “Funny and depressing at the same time,” said Michael Carlebach, a photojournalist, photographic historian and educator.

He knows. He was there from the early 1970s through 2004, teaching at the University of Miami and freelancing for The Miami Herald and its Tropic magazine, among other publications, including The New York Times.

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Fortunately, his work from this period was gathered in Sunny Land: Pictures From Paradise(Safe Harbor Books, 2010), so those of us who missed that other South Florida can revel in it all the same.

Carlebach has recently completed “Bain’s New York: The City in News Pictures, 1900-1925,” which will be available imminently from Dover Publications. He is also thinking about a broader companion volume to “Sunny Land,” drawn from his photographs around the country. It would be titled, “Us.”

“All this is out there,” he said about these brief, quiet and sometimes deliciously odd tableaux. “It’s easily ignored, but at our peril, if we forget who we are or if we think the only important stuff is what’s smack in the middle of the limelight.” (read more)


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