Sunshine State by Beth Souza
Sunshine State is a photographic series documenting the visual and cultural complexity of the contemporary Florida tourist landscape.
Florida was admitted to the union in 1845, six years after the birth of photography. Throughout its history the state has been portrayed to the outside world through carefully constructed images. Many of the tourist attractions first marketed to mid-century American tourists (Weekie Wachie, Cypress Gardens, etc.) were man-made "improvements" on nature. Postcards sent home reflected this constructed ideal. A cycle of representation began that represented the state as an unspoiled tropical paradise.
My family moved to Florida when I was eleven. What I discovered is that the lived experience of growing up in paradise doesn't always look like it does on the postcards. I didn't wrestle alligators or cavort with mermaids. Though the origins of that ideal are never far away, on a given day it's more likely that you'll see a mural of a shark on the side of a building than actually run into one in real life.
In this body of work, I am interested in examining how our knowledge and understanding of a place is constructed through the images that we see of it. My intent is to deconstruct the idyllic Florida traditionally represented and reconstruct a more accurate representation of the tourist landscape, a place where residents and tourists coexist and everyone lives with the land.
Beth Souza lives and works in Hammond, Louisiana.
To view more of Beth's work, please visit her website.