TIME by connie mae oliver

The advent of the digital SLR, and later of the smartphone, has changed what it means to be a photographer—has complicated the difference between “person who photographs” and “photographer”—has drawn attention finally to the unnecessary distinction.

South Pointe Park, 2011

When I was fifteen my father drove me to Little Havana where I photographed the Elian Gonzalez protests. Police, who’d been tear-gassing residents, stopped us and searched my dad. I remember being asked to give up the film in my camera, my father saying something inaudible in the chaos, and being eventually shooed away. To be allowed to keep my film that day had meant something to me because it was all that I had with which to hold an image.

The Clipper, 2011

Kendall, 2010

Miami Metro Rail, 2003

Miami’s beauty is drunk and severe, it wasn’t until I moved away that I understood. In San Francisco, squinting under sprinkling mist, I waited in vain for thunder and lightning to satisfy me.

Francis, 2011

Photography is special in its ability to trespass on other representative systems. The verbs we use as photographers tell us; we take and we capture images, we burn them on silver coated surfaces. There is a suggestion of solicitous destruction of the actual and the lived, which, as a point of departure for conventional photography, is only deepened by the digital experience. Digital: relating to touch, to the index finger landing on a surface and signifying thereby—I save, I delete, I send to oblivion, I disseminate to the world, I like, I bear witness to and dignify.

Miami International Airport, 2017

Ian’s House, 2017

The city of Miami has destruction within its history, character and destiny. It builds and demolishes infamously—one is discouraged from vocally liking any one landmark, as this is a guarantee that it will be leveled soon after. The “magic city” might be aesthetically enchanting, but it is also a literal site of true, practiced and informed mysticism unmatched by any other metropolitan area of the U.S., except New Orleans. The communication with syncretic religions and cultures of the Caribbean can be found everywhere, in the routine and in un-obscured realms. There is an urban ecology of transience that informs the viewer, manages the image and dissociates the photographer. This is more compatible with late and recent photographic models, whose structures of rapid composition, editing and deleting often mirror the regenerative personality of the city.

Ian and Francis, New Year’s Eve, 2011

It’s the only U.S. city that automatically reads me as native born. Like the digital image that appears and dissolves, flashing and ungraspable, eternal in its tenuousness, this city has more in common with impressions than it does with propriety; it is a passage that foreshadows the immaterial, and in this way defies being seen.

connie may oliver is the founding editor of FEELINGS, an online journal of poetry, art, audio, and interviews. her chapbook “COSMOS A PERSONAL VOYAGE BY CARL SAGAN ANN DRUYAN STEVEN SOTER AND ME” is available from the operating system. you can see more of her work here.