Sunshine state. Swampland paradise. Tourist aspiration. Real estate racket. Refuge of excess. Political swing-state. Sub-tropical 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 photographed it over four decades.
Samoylova’s series Floridas documents it all in a layered portrait of contemporary Florida, while establishing a dialogue with the oeuvre of Walker Evans, the American photographer who documented the state between the 1930s and the 1970s. Like Evans, Samoylova moves between color and black and white, looking closely at the telling details in landscapes, cityscapes, people, objects, and interiors that speak volumes about the culture and social values. With her vivid bright images and sharp juxtapositions, Anastasia Samoylova offers a test for endurance to the iconic American narratives of the American Dream.
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 the past few years, I have been photographing Florida intensively, and extensively, from the Keys to the state borders with Alabama and Georgia. It is a stark place, culturally, politically, economically, climatically, and it wears this starkness quite visibly. It is there in the fragile landscapes, in the precarious tourist industry, in the boom and bust of its cities, and on the faces of its diverse citizens.
“I make my photographs on wandering road trips, often encountering the most telling subjects by chance. The images are layered, with subtle references both to Florida’s complex history and to the way it has been photographed by others, most notably by Walker Evans. This ongoing project amounts to a nuanced portrait not just of Florida, but of the contemporary USA more broadly. What is happening in the extremes of Florida is happening across the country. “ ( Anastasia Samoloyova)
In Floridas, photographs by Samoylova and Evans are presented in parallel, weaving past and present, switching between black-and-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.
About the Authors:
Walker Evans (1903–75) is an acknowledged master of photography whose diverse body of work continues to shape our understanding of the modern era. Evans began photographing in the 1920s, moving quickly to define his aesthetic and subject matter: straight and sober images of American everyday life and its environs.
Within a decade he had produced some of the most significant photographs of the twentieth century, exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art and published two landmark books: American Photographs (1938) and Let us now Praise Famous Men with James Agee (1941). Evans wrote art and film reviews for Time (1943–45), was employed by Fortune between 1945 and ’65 and taught at Yale thereafter. Steidl has published Lyric Documentary (2006), Walker Evans: the magazine work (2014) and Double Elephant (2015).
Born in Moscow in 1984, Anastasia Samoylova moves between observational photography, studio practice and installation.
She has exhibited at the Aperture Foundation, New York; the Griffin Museum of Photography, Boston; and at festivals in Brazil, Belgium, France, Holland, China, South Korea and Germany. Samoylova has published her work in Smithsonian Magazine, FOAM, Art Press, Monocle and Bloomberg Businessweek.