Key West through the lens of an iPhone
Key West photographed using 'just' an iPhone
Key West in South Florida is a truly wonderful place. Because we are lucky enough live reasonably nearby, we can visit often and we both love using our iPhones to photograph our travels.
I first went there in the 1980s and loved it immediately. Over the years, it has become more and more commercial but still has that island feel and is still a vibrant community of artists, musicians and of course, sailors and seafarers.
You're probably more accustomed to seeing color photographs of the Florida Keys and the area certainly is beautiful but black and white photography captures a reality that can be hidden by color.
iPhoneography is often known as street photography. The reason for this is because it allows the photographer to capture a moment because it's so instantaneous. Most people who use their cellphones to record their lives upload images immediately to social media. This means that they are a true representation of the moment and not manipulated in Photoshop. The growing group of art iPhoneographers are showing us life as it happens, when it happens.
The photographs below were taken a couple of years ago when we visited the Keys with house guests.
Laid back Key West
This is one of my favorites from this collection. That's because it shows that typical laid back island vibe which prevents the town from becoming too 'disneyfied'. Get on your bike, don pirate hats and iPod headphones ... then stop in the street for a chat. This is the area at it's best - chilled.
Bored in Key West?
WHAT'S THE STORY?
Come on kids, you're in Key West! The sun is shining and it's a beautiful day. But who knows what made these kids sit here? Are they just tired after having a lot of fun? Sometimes I look at this and the girl seems just a youngster, other times I see her as the boy's mum, who knows? Is she using her cellphone to call for a cab? I love the textures in the background.
Key West kitsch
MONOCHROME REVEALS THE DETAILS
By viewing this 1950s postcard-style sign in black and white, its cool quirkiness can be seen so much better. I love the way the roof and the flag send their shadows onto the graphic as it unconsciously gives the shape of a yacht's sails, echoing the image of a yacht on the left. I've walked past this building many times but it's only when I saw the black and white photographs that I saw the small square holes in the center of the wall. Because this building probably pre-dates the arrival of air conditioning, these are possibly for ventilation.
Learn more about taking great photographs using your phone. Gone are the days of heavy, bulky cameras - today you can take great photographs with the tiny device that just slips neatly into the pocket of your jeans.
A famous landmark
Many people who have visited the area have seen this sign, pointing to various locations. Because of its bright colors, it's easy to see those and not the shape of the object. What I love about this shot is the way that the angles at the ends of the signs are revealed. Because on of the vertical signs almost bisects the photograph, four distinct dark shapes are made from the sky in the background.
What I love about this photograph isn't just that it's so typical of the area. I also love the way the ripples on the water are reflected onto the hull of the boat. You can see the same effect on the hull of the boat on the right.The rough wood contrasts with the folded sails and the lines that bisect the sky.
Textures and triangles
If there is a theme to these photographs, it's that of triangles. So many objects, roofs, yacht masts and signs form triangles pointing to the sky. And it's the sky that provides the drama of the area - the wonderful sunshine and the stunning sunsets.
HAND ROLLED CIGARS
These are a feature of Key West. Previously Cuban cigars were rolled by dusky Cuban girls who rolled the cigars in their thighs - a pretty raunchy image that no doubt gave an added flavor to the cigars to their smokers! This photograph is so typical though - the rather ramshackle building, the historical aspect of the cigars and the passing tourist. What a mix the island is today. Note the tropical foliage in the background and the tacky lettering, both adding to the charm. (That's my sister-in-law looking surprised at the camera).
Animals are everywhere on the island. I had to photograph this dog - I think I was first attracted by the way he looks to be wearing eye makeup! But I love the pattern of the trellis behind him and the way that it is echoed on the seat of the stool. Yet again, this is a photograph that asks questions. Why does he prefer to stand on the stool? Is it because it's in the shade from the sun or does he get a better vantage point for watching the tourists go by? It also is typically Key West as it combines the rather battered look - the trellis - with the pristine balcony railing that can be seen in the background. Is that a butterfly on the bottom of the trellis?
What's the story?
Our house guests were enjoying what I call the commercial part of the town and we wandered down side streets, looking for interesting subjects to photograph. This was irresistible. Two areas of the dilapidated building had been covered in plywood which provided a textural contrast against the rather ravaged walls. The road sign seems almost prophetic - where is that 'one way' leading to, the past or the future? As in other photographs, the wires are highlighted against the sky but it's those chairs - why? As dilapidated as the building, the chairs are begging to be restored but why are they there? Who put them there? Is this someone's secret place to sit?
Fire hydrant - Key West style
Just a humble fire hydrant - the type you'd see anywhere but some local creative type has decided to decorate it in a typically funky and primitive and typical way. I enjoy the idea that someone took the time and trouble to collect paint and brushes and brighten up commonplace objects. Who were they? This photograph shows a wonderful contrast between a man-made object and the grass on which it sits. See too how the shadow on the left and the curbstone on the right form a triangular frame for the object.
One of our favorite bars
Our favorite bar is Captain Tony's but this comes a close second. While our house guests were finishing up the in bar, we went outside to photograph it. All the ingredients are there - triangles, power lines, bikes, tropical foliage and the Florida Keys sky. Note too the New Orleans-style balcony.
Mallory Square is where crowds gather to watch the amazing sunsets. I often rant that Key West has become too commercial over the years but I imagine that the same could be said for many places. But it’s great to see that old and rather worn signs haven’t been replaced by brand new ones and that the island maintains its character. This photograph is so typical of Key West showing as it does the dilapidated sign and the spiky tropical foliage.
Where I like to go
- Mallory Square is a must when the sun is going down. There are many vantage points but Mallory Square has a sunset party every evening with entertainers, music and craft stalls.
- I first went to the Hemingway House in the mid 1980s and decided that it was my dream home. Watch for the six-toed cats that live there. If you're like me and love to discover hidden details, look at the floor in the grounds as there are some lovely decorative tiles.
- Everyone goes to Sloppy Joe's which is known for being where Ernest Hemingway used to spend a lot of his time. However, rightly or wrongly, I believe this to be erroneous. A native Key Wester told me that in those days, Sloppy Joe's was the bar that is now Captain Tony's (just across the road), and I prefer it.
- There are several yachts that offer sunset cruises. The mayhem of Mallory Square is wonderful but a sunset cruise is a completely different way of enjoying watching the sun go down. Plus, being under sail is just tremendous.
- For snorkeling, there's a great service that uses a really cool catamaran. The last time I went it was on their early morning sailing, started at about 7 in the morning. They give free beer too!
Read more about the wonderful Key West - even local cooking! It's an exciting place but the drive from Miami to Key West is magnificent. Once you get into the Keys proper, you'll see beautiful colors in the ocean, quaint buildings and then ... the famous Seven Mile Bridge - quite breathtaking.
The book below is an absolute best seller. That's hardly surprising as Key West really is an example of paradise.
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Books written by Ernest Hemingway during his time living there
It's believed that these books were written in Key West, wholly or partially. If you've been to Hemingway's house, can you imagine sitting there on the covered porch writing? What paradise.
Photography credits & model releases
These photographs were taken by me and 'himself' on one of our trips and are our copyright. At one time, model releases were required if you intended to publish a photograph online. The emergence of street photography has done away with that. If you are in a public place and are photographed, you do not need to sign a model release and have no recourse in law. This being said, if you are in one of these photographs and would like it to be removed from this article, we respect your privacy. Please get in touch and we will remove the image.