Early Bird Special: Miami’s South Beach in the 1980s

Mar 30, 2012 6:58pm

Photographer Gay Block tells her life story in her new book from Radius Books, “About Love. Photographs and Films 1973-2011.”

Block began shooting at age 31, documenting her own Jewish community in Houston in 1973.   She continued the project traveling to Miami Beach, focusing on the retirement community in South Beach.  This is her series, ” Miami, South Beach, 1982-1985″.

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“All four of us are from the Holocaust, from Auschwitz. See the numbers. And do you know who was our matchmaker? Adolf Hitler. We met in the camps. We were all in the same camp and I was his nurse and he liked me so much that he kept me forever.”

 

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“Here when the people come, more or less they’re settled, this is it, and they don’t worry for tomorrow, because they have social security, they have a little bit saved up. That’s what makes Florida so wonderful. Would you get people together to sing like this in New York? I love music. ”

 

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“In 1982 I fell in love with the old people of South Miami Beach. They were the bubbys and zaydes I wish I had had. These were pensioners living on social security checks in one-room apartments, telling stories of their lives and their children.” – Gay Block

 

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“For 5,000 years the Jews are crying ‘Israel-Israel,’ and now they have an Israel so why don’t they go settle there, in the kibbutzim? But they don’t want to go because it’s paradise here in America. ”

 

 

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“When I saw Miami’s South Beach for the first time, in 1982, I was awed by the beauty of the small Deco hotels, but I was even more fascinated by the old people sitting on the porches. The first night, when I stopped at one of those porches, it was love at first sight. I knew right away that I would return again and again to talk with and photograph these people. There were the bubbes and zaydes (grandmothers and grandfathers) I had longed for.” 

 

 

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“I loved their Yiddish accents, their colorful clothes, their way of life, their independence, and how they loved the attention I paid them. I worked there through 1985. I had never photographed in color but Miami WAS color, from the purple / blue water to the aging deco hotels.”

 

 

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“I was in the camps, but I don’t want to talk about it. It will ruin my whole day. ”

 

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“Florida prolonged my life. It’s much easier to live here; you have much more fun. You go to concerts, you go to operas — you live here. In New York all you do is just think of your death: tomorrow I’m gonna die and I’ll just sit and wait.”

 

For more work by Gay Block, please visit her website. To purchase any of Gay Block’s  books please check out Radius Books.

Block also made extensive audio and film recordings of conversations, resulting in award-winning films, five of which are on DVDs that accompany her new book, About Love.

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