Sunshine state. Swampland paradise. Tourist aspiration. Real estate racket. Refuge of excess. Political swing-state. Subtropical fever dream. With forms of nature and culture found nowhere else, Florida is unique. It is also among the most elusive and misunderstood of places. Anastasia Samoylova photographs Florida on intensive road trips. Walker Evans (1903-75) photographed it over four decades. Twisting the visual clichés, these two remarkably discerning observers convey Florida’s dizzying combination of fantasy and reality.
Evans witnessed modern Florida emerging in the 1930s, with its blend of cultures, waves of tourism, stark beauty and blatant vulgarity. He photographed there until the 1970s, making Polaroids that still feel contemporary. Samoylova inherits what Evans saw coming. With intelligence and humor, she picks her way through the seductions and disappointments of a place that symbolizes the contradictions of the United States today. In Floridas, photographs by Samoylova and Evans are presented in parallel, weaving past and present, switching between blackand- white and color imagery, all complemented by an essay by editor David Campany and a visionary short story by celebrated novelist and Florida resident Lauren Groff.
Florida is as fascinating as it is deceptive, a place of wild cliché and deep complexity. Walker Evans and Anastasia Samoylova have been two of the state’s most acute and thoughtful observers. In this book their photographs are seen in rich dialogue across the decades. Florida cannot be explained but these smart and playful photographers are the perfect guides to the puzzle. – David Campany