James St Laurent’s Miami / 3
A photo journal of Miami’s most intriguing neighbourhoods and sites
Text and images by James St Laurent
A neat array of 31 brightly coloured lifeguard towers dot the Miami Beach shore from 87th Street to South Pointe, each sporting a very unique art deco design and its own piece of history. The towers provide playful visual contrasts set against the sparkling blue ocean and have become cherished symbols of Miami Beach.
Architect William Lane designed the first towers and began working on them more than 20 years ago. “Hurricane Andrew had pretty much wiped out the former towers”, he explained at the time. “I was interested in creating some folly. I saw some opportunity to replace the stands and… make them more playful.”
Many more followed, some as a result of design competitions, and some commissioned by local entrepreneurs. Although the towers all share the same function, they come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Each has been distinctively decorated, ranging from garish to kooky, from old fashioned to obviously patriotic.
Hurricane Andrew had pretty much wiped out the former towers… I was interested in creating some folly. I saw some opportunity to replace the stands and… make them more playful.
Lifeguard towers are used to watch over swimmers so that any potential drowning can be averted, as well as limiting any other threats before they get too close to swimmers. And yet, despite this being a vital contribution to public safety, the towers are often paid for by fundraisers and staffing is not always guaranteed.
Miami Beach is 8.5 miles (13,6 km) long and is located on a barrier island connected to Miami by a number of causeways. The beach has three distinct parts. The first, South Beach or SoBe, is 2 miles long and is probably the best known, containing the historic, art-deco part of the city.
Mid-Beach is the portion that encompasses the area north of 23rd Street and the Indian Creek and south of Surprise Lake and 63rd Street. It contains the Collins Waterfront Architectural District, home to 110 notable buildings and structures built from the late 40s to the 60s.
Lastly there is North Beach, bound by 63rd Street and Indian Creek Drive to the south and 87th Terrace to the north. The lifeguard towers can be found on all three sections of Miami Beach but most can be discovered on SoBe.
James St Laurent – My work is all about the idea – to communicate through images that convey an emotive context and engage the viewer by presenting a visual paradox. Different types of subjects and genres require different approaches, but the end result is still a compelling image that captures your attention. Despite having had a camera early on, I found myself in a career as a stage set and lighting designer, then accidentally stumbled and fell back into photography. Since then I have shot a variety of genres, ranging from fashion to travel to portraits to concerts, and exhibited in galleries in both group and solo shows. There are photographs everywhere – the problem is to find the interesting images or those that no one else sees. The obvious is easy– the unique takes a little more time. jamesstlaurent.com