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Florida was a 'Peculiar Paradise' in the 1980s and this new photo exhibit captures that

Johnny Diaz
Contact ReporterSouth Florida Sun Sentinel

Florida of the 1980s is highlighted in a new exhibit called “Peculiar Paradise: Florida Photographs by Nathan Benn” at the HistoryMiami Museum.

The exhibit, which opens Friday and runs through April 14, features 100 photos by Benn, a Miami native and former National Geographic photographer.

Several of the images featured were shot in 1981, the year that Time magazine famously declared on its cover that South Florida was “Paradise Lost.” Benn’s photos show Miami at that time when it was known for its cocaine cowboys, a crime wave and an influx of immigrants in part from Haiti and the Mariel boat lift from Cuba.

“These Florida pictures are the finest and most personal work from my 20-year career as a National Geographic photographer,” said Benn, who now lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and New York City.

The photos also highlight a changing Little Havana neighborhood, Miami’s high-rollers, the vibrant nightlife culture, Miami Beach as a retirement haven and Dundee’s Fifth Street Gym in South Beach.

Benn also shared the photos he shot in Palm Beach at the Mar-a-Lago club before Donald Trump purchased it. And there are photos of tourists visiting Orlando attractions such as Epcot.

Jorge Zamanillo, HistoryMiami’s executive director, said that “through these carefully curated images, you will be intrigued by the issues that were tackled here 37 years ago and those that remain hot button issues today.”

The exhibit coincides with the release of a 200-page book of the same name.

Admission to the exhibit at the museum (located at 101 W Flagler St. in Miami) is $10 for adults and $8 for students with identification.

For more information, visit historymiami.org.

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