Young Preservationist Focuses His Lens on Miami Marine Stadium
Younger generations are vitally important for the continuation of historic preservation. That is why we at the National Trust responded enthusiastically to a request from Ivan Robles, a sophomore at Miami Beach Senior High School, to share his photographs of the Miami Marine Stadium, one of our National Treasures. We chatted with Ivan to learn how this unique space inspires him.
In what ways does your background play a role in both your passion for photography and for showcasing the city of Miami?
I was born in Miami Beach in 1997 and have lived here my entire life. My grandfather was a photographer by hobby, and ever since I was very young, I remember my mother telling me stories of how she would help my grandfather develop photos in his dark room. It seems that my love for photography is hereditary. Last Christmas, my aunt gave me some of my grandfather’s old Nikons, saying that she was “passing the torch.”
Being raised in Miami, I have been exposed to many diverse groups and cultures, an opportunity that I would not have been provided with anywhere else in the world. I knew that it would be a waste not to take advantage of my surroundings and capture the special light of this city. I can be on Ocean Drive taking photos of Art Deco buildings just as easily as I can be in the Everglades snapping photos of herring and alligators.
In what ways is Miami unique?
Miami has a special flavor. Miami is the new melting pot, a mixture of the older generation’s weekly domino games and the newer generation’s beach parties. It’s the only place where I can spot Nicki Minaj walking into a club on Washington and see Beyoncé zip by on a scooter behind Versace Mansion. It’s the only place where I can listen to elderly Cuban men chatter as they sip cortaditos and moments later pass the Palace bar on Ocean Drive to see a drag queen emcee do a dynamite impersonation of Celia Cruz.
What role can photography play in highlighting special places like the Miami Marine Stadium?
Most people are visual. For people who have been to the Miami Stadium shows in the past, seeing photos evokes happy memories and a feeling of nostalgia. And for those who didn’t get the chance to experience those shows, they can still enjoy the stadium’s incredible graffiti art.
When photographing the stadium and other special places, what approach do you take? What do you keep in mind?
I try to highlight what the current condition of the place has to offer as well as emphasize that the place has a past. Panes of light, jagged pieces of broken wood, and rusty bars are some of my favorite parts to photograph because it’s all natural beauty.
I make it obvious that time has affected the place, but it hasn’t taken away its character. Sometimes I use models and props to create a contrast between the old and the new, juxtaposing modern elements with the old, attractive aspects. The colorful graffiti of the Miami Marine Stadium and its many lopsided seats is an example of this.
What do you hope people see when they come across your photographs?
I hope that people become aware that there are projects in place to restore many old and beautiful buildings around Miami. I hope people see how truly incredible and historic Miami is, that there is beauty in both the old and the new. The Miami Marine Stadium is one of these incredibly cool and historic places, and I hope that the community will be encouraged to become involved in renovating and restoring Miami’s existing past.
How necessary is it for younger generations to play an active role in spotlighting historically significant places?
We are the guardians of the old. It is our responsibility to ensure that these places remain standing so that we can admire them just like past generations have. The Art Deco neighborhood I live in now would not exist if it weren’t for individuals joining together to fight for it and restore it.
We wouldn’t have our special Mediterranean, Art Deco, and [Miami Modern] buildings to call home if we didn’t work to preserve them. People visit from all over the globe to admire Miami’s architecture and history, and that should be a sign that we should admire it too.
To view more of Robles' work, visit his Flickr page.