Photographers, art directors and models began flocking to South Beach for sun-kissed fashion shoots long before 2002, when the art world began descending on Miami’s shores each December for Art Basel Miami Beach and, a few years later, Design Miami. “We were there on a shoot and someone said an art fair was starting, and I was like, ‘What? Here?’ ” recalls Pamela Hanson. The jet-setting photographer began coming here as early as the mid-1980s, flying from London, where she lived, to South Beach for work. “Besides some old people doing calisthenics on the beach, it was just a lot of photo shoots back then,” she says. “There was really only one place to stay, and you couldn’t even go to Lincoln Road — it was too dangerous. It was super-raw. But all our friends would be there — models and other photographers on other shoots — and we’d all hang out together.”
Now based in New York, Hanson, who has been taking photos since she was in a teenager living in Switzerland, started professionally as an assistant for legendary photographer Arthur Elgort. With her casual camera style and sharp eye for candid lifestyle shots, she quickly became a fixture in the fashion world during the rise of the modern supermodel in the late 1980s and ’90s. “We were all friends,” she says of her model subjects, “and it was easy to shoot them with a sense of spontaneity.”
Over the years she has brought her relaxed brand of chic to the pages of Vogue, Elle, Vanity Fair and Esquire, among many other publications, as well as to numerous brands, from Lancôme to Tommy Hilfiger. Although Staley-Wise Gallery, in New York, represents her and Assouline has published two books of her photos — Girls, in 2000, and Boys, in 2006 — it’s rare to see her images off the page. Starting December 1, however, a mini survey of her prints is taking over the lobby of the Shore Club — one of the glamorous hotels that first sprang up along Ocean Drive’s Art Deco strip in 1939, and was then revived by hotelier Ian Schrager with a renovation and new tower by British architect David Chipperfield in 2001.
For the exhibition, Hanson revisited her massive archive to select 10 images, each of which she has printed anew in an edition of three plus one artist’s proof. (One edition is being sold to benefit an organization called World Housing, which provides homes to families around the globe living in slums, while the others will be available through Staley-Wise on their 1stdibs storefront.) The photos, a mix of black-and-white and color, range from a laughing Michaela Bercu by a Miami-area beach in 1988 to Helena Christensen in a crocheted bikini in Morocco in 1994. (Both images originally appeared in Vogue Paris.) “Most of the shots are connected to Miami in that they are heat and sunshine related,” says the photographer, who enlarged all the photos to 60 by 40 inches — quite a significant increase from the magazine page. “It’s amazing to see them so large!” she says.
The show came together after creative agency Watson & Company tapped Hanson to shoot a rebranding campaign for the Shore Club, which is now under the management of the Brazilian hospitality company Fasano. A remodeling by Brazilian architect Isay Weinfeld is transforming the property into a hotel and residences, set to open in 2017. Hanson included two images from the new campaign, which features the American model Jessica Sikosek going about her leisurely daily rituals in a breezy Miami setting. “People are done with this glitzy Miami luxury, and there’s a new wave of low-key, relaxed, understated living and wealth in South Beach,” says William Richmond-Watson, of Watson & Company. “Pamela’s photos represents what South Beach is becoming.” The agency selected Hanson for the campaign, he adds, because “her work is intimate and real yet super-refined.”
While her images are composed with a clear sense of structure, many of the shots included in the show have an underlying spontaneity that makes the models feel more like friends than superstars. Says Hanson: “I think everyone has a soul, and I’m trying to capture that.”