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Anthropology 101

As I was looking through some old contact sheets, several things came to mind, particularly with a bus series I shot during 1979-1981. These people do not exist in downtown West Palm Beach any more. For one thing, this particular bus stop is gone. It was the main stop back then. Second, no self respecting municipality would tolerate such tired, rusty buses as examples of their public transportation system. Either the middle class has made the upwardly mobile move and are now disguised as young professionals, or the whole demographic of West Palm Beach city proper has changed. Government offices and toney restaurants have replaced the Woolworth's and Kresge five-and-dimes. The last of the downtown department stores, Burdines, has not only long ago left downtown, but the shopping landscape altogether. The ubiquitous Starbucks is frequented by yuppies (do they even call them that anymore?) reading the daily news on their iPads. Has West Palm Beach finally grown up, or has the world just changed? Or both? There is certainly no longer any need for pensioners to go downtown. There are plenty of dollar stores taking over strip malls in the outlying areas.

While we may think of ourselves as street photographers and street photography not as journalism, we are social documentarians. Anthropologists. Takers of a visual census of our time. We may not know that in the present, but it becomes evident in our photography as it acquires the rich patina of time. One of the characteristics that identifies street photography (for me) is that we do not have the responsibility of journalism. We are not required to be compassionate, or responsible or to fulfill any mandate to tell a story. Yet in the end, our work may end up being all of these things.

TOP: Bus #4, West Palm Beach 1980

ABOVE: Don’t Get Married, West Palm Beach 1980

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