Untitled (Sunshine State)
Interview by L. Valena
Can you just start out by explaining to me what you responded to?
I responded a drawing of Donkey Kong, Wario and Waluigi I think he's called? On the beach, with a boat in the background. There was sand and water, and it was adorable and weird.
What was weird about it?
It was just so funny to think of Donkey Kong as this muscular guy and then Wario and Waluigi were looking at him in like a jealous way. It just reminded me of being a kid and playing those games and seeing those characters, and seeing them with this adult theme was just hilarious to me.
For example, this pink translucent sarong.
It's just so good.
What were your first thoughts when you saw this?
When I first saw it, I was like: "This is what I have to pull inspiration from? That's fucking amazing!" I've never done anything like this before. Because usually you pull inspiration from the things around you, and I played these games as a kid, but as an adult working I don't even have time to do that anymore. When I saw this, it took me back to when me and my sister used to draw these characters in our notebooks and stuff. This is fucking rad.
What happened next?
I called my friend Denzel- he's the man in one of the photos. I sent him the drawing, with no context, and he was like "what the hell?" And I was like "I don't know what to tell you dude, let's go shooting"- he's a photographer as well. I live in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida. The downtown area has a little fake beach, and then a park that's just right on the water- you could jump right into the bay. It's very pretty because you can see all these natural things, but you also see very odd things, because it's a tourist destination. You see families going to this fake little beach, but ten minutes away there's a real beach.
What's the difference between a fake beach and a real beach?
A fake beach is man-made. It's made from sand that was taken from a real beach and just placed in another area. With real beaches here in Florida, there are actual tides that come in and out, and they have wildlife... I guess there's not another way to put it- you can just tell it's a real beach. Real beaches are kept clean- they keep themselves clean through their ecosystem. Fake beaches don't really have that, because it's just a bunch of sand thrown within a half-ring of concrete.
Ok, so you two went out- were you shooting on Polaroid?
Correct. There's full format Polaroids and Instax mini.
Tell me more about your thought process with these shots.
For these shots I wanted to capture what was in this very touristy, beachy area. Because even though it is a very whimsical little area, it still has nature and beauty to it. We went there and were walking around, trying to figure out what we wanted to shoot. And I decided that the water was a good thing to shoot, because the water was there in the drawing, they were at a beach, but none of them were in the water. So, I wanted to make a piece that showed a subject within the water. So I took a double exposure Polaroid, and I had taken ones of wildlife that were there. These birds are very common, but usually chased away by tourists, and I was able to get a very close photo because they've starting to get used to people.
How do you intend to have this work viewed? All six together?
I put them together because they all kind of embody this tourist aspect. Living in Florida in beachy areas, you always meet these people, and it's fantastic, but it's the Sunshine State, and people are always coming and going, and leaving their trash behind. They're just here for the weekend, or just here a few days to try to experience what Florida is, and as someone living here you know what it's like, and it's glamorized into something that it doesn't need to be. I wanted to capture what it's really like living here- it is beautiful, and it is strange and odd, and this stuff is just right around the corner at any given moment, and I think it's a great thing.
So, Florida beyond the tourist aspect.
And looking at the work now, what else does it say to you?
Looking at the work now, it just feels very homey to me, it feels very natural and at home, and it's something that I'm always around, and it feels also very serious as well. I took several double-exposure Polaroids, and with the double exposure you can capture a moment from days ago, and then morph it with what's happening in front of you currently, and it becomes this beautiful piece. So, looking at them now, it reminds me of the place that I live, and it is a very bourgeois area. The area near the park where we took the photos, is right on the water, and if you walk like half a mile away there are expensive bars and restaurants on the water, which is where that statue came from. They put those statues out there not because they have any historical significance but because they look nice, and there's a yacht club down the street. It's not for anything real.
Just classes things up?
Yeah. It's just a very touristy city. People come here and do not see the full depth of it, they just see the pretty things and then they go. These pretty things are still here when they leave, and there's significance behind them, but unfortunately not very much. Being near the water all the time- the prompt reminded me of where I live. The whole environment.
Call Number: M10VA | M13VA.toUnti
Taylor Torres is a Latina artist born and raised in the Sunshine State, now based in St. Petersburg. Capturing the fleeting moments of those in front of her, Taylor uses film photography to document life in the Sunshine State within the ever changing Florida DIY Music, Art, and LGBTQ+ scene.