It was Christmas morning. Everything was closed, and I didn’t care. What I wanted was on the outside. I took my camera gear to the Wynwood Arts district of Miami to capture some street art, and lots of it. This is the start of a series of posts yielding my favorite images and encounters from my exploration of Wynwood. Roughly speaking, this area is divided by North 20th Street to the south, I-195 to the north, I-95 to the west, and the Florida East Coast Railway to the east.
In 2009, a Miami real-estate developer had a vision to turn the walls of abandoned, windowless warehouse buildings into painted canvases for urban street art. Graffiti artists were already marking up the neighborhood. Why not transform the neglected neighborhood into an art-conscious and hip pedestination (YES, WORLD, I AM COINING THAT PHRASE HERE AND NOW); an epicenter of foot traffic. The main stage became something called The Wynwood Walls. Read all about it.
Yes, it’s a gentrification project with art at its heart. Art-centric businesses; lounges, cafes, restaurants, shops and art galleries are an exciting way to breathe life into a worn out neighborhood.
It was a sunless day, which was great for photography outside since the cloud cover diffused the light. Clearly I wasn’t the only person with the same idea. Other than two security guards, one moored at the Walls, and one at a diner across the street, I encountered a large smattering of foreign tourists and some art-curious locals.
My apportioned free time was limited. I had so much to see, and so many images to make. I waited on a few walls for the foot traffic to clear. If the stream was constant, and people were posing for their loved ones in front of a piece, I waited until the activity moved on or became interesting and included it in my image. That’s art, Andy Warhol style.
Some people were oblivious to photo-tourist etiquette. After taking a photo, they stood around in front of the same artwork they photographed, self-absorbed for minutes at a time in extended conversations. Or they chimped out viewing their camera live screens. If they made it into my image they offer a sense of scale to some of the artworks.
I waited for this gaggle to move along after taking their photos. They were in front of the image below. For what seemed like an eternity. I had a tripod and was hard to miss. I used my wide angle so I could get close to that chain and fill up my frame.
After I took a moment to focus my camera and take my shot, the blond walked right in front of me, instead of the open space behind me. That’s when I realized I wouldn’t last long on the inside of the Wynwood Walls.
I congratulate the developers for having pulled in some heavy-hitting street artists on the permanent walls. Some if the images below show you what I mean.
This and my forthcoming posts will highlight my favorite images from what I observed and encountered as I explored the Wynwood neighborhood on foot for the first time.
Even for a quiet day without the cafe and shops open, there were many people milling around in front of the expansive artworks. I’ve become unused to human urban density. Keep in mind, I’m coming from Albuquerque, where high foot traffic constitutes a passersby on a hiking trail every ten minutes or so.
Since there were streets upon streets to walk down, with various forms of painted walls, I lost my patience and went outside The Walls.
The gritty neighborhood didn’t disappoint.