Volume 1, Issue 8, 2019

Jill Waterman: New Year's Eve Celebrations

Alison Nordström, Photo Editor

Jill Waterman has been photographing New Year’s Eve celebrations for more than 30 years. In a project that has taken her as far afield as Paris, Miami, Quito, Capetown, Prague, Jerusalem, Shanghai, and Havana, she has documented the before, during and after moments of what is surely the most international celebration the world knows. Despite the widely different locations to which Waterman journeys annually, she maintains visual consistency by utilizing the same classic equipment: a 35mm camera, black and white film, an off camera flash and an external battery pack. An acknowledged expert on the challenging technical requirements such shooting requires, Waterman is the author of Night and Low Light Photography, published by Amphoto Books/Random House in 2008.

In 2002, Waterman photographed the legendary New Year’s Eve celebrations of Miami Beach, perhaps at the manmade island’s key turning point from “heaven’s waiting room” to the youthful and worldly cultural center it has become. With the instincts and reflexes such candid captures require, these photographs capture both heartland values and arty decadence, showing diverse celebrants from children, to shriners, to disco kings and queens.

An inherent aspect of photography is its almost unavoidable ability to register detail and establish typologies. Not yet 20 years old, these images record uniforms, hairstyles and evening gowns that already feel distinctively dated. In the context of this issue’s theme, these images are a document of a brief moment of revelry shared by locals and visitors alike, expanding our notion of leisure.  This is a glimpse of Florida that historians, sociologists, and others may study hundreds of years from now, when their subjects are dead, and climate change has transformed the ritzy streets of Miami’s “Billion Dollar Sandbar” into a sunken ghost town best enjoyed through underwater exploration.

Waterman’s larger study is ongoing. It places these few hours on a Florida Beach in a global, human context that invites us to think about the New Year celebration here for its differences and similarities to those elsewhere. To see more work from this project, visit www.newyearphotos.com

Jill Waterman: New Year's Eve Celebrations

 

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