This old gem was my biggest step into the abandoned and urbex world - from Richard Nixon and Elvis to boys in underwear and less, this beauty had seen it all.
In 2012 I had been doing photography for about 2 years, more specifically mens portraits. For the most part I was very much still in the stage of practicing, building up my confidence and figuring out what I really wanted to photograph. While I didn't consider myself a professional at this point, I already had some paid gigs under my belt and was doing a lot of test shoots and editorial work with modeling agencies, though they generally didn't pay sh*t, if anything. Living at the beach gave me an easy go-to location for all the swimwear shoots I was doing, plus other spots in South Beach were perfect for editorials and whatnot, but it became monotonous and uninspiring. I hadn't really discovered or even considered the abandoned building theme yet, but at some point I got turned on to the old, vacant Miami Marine Stadium on Key Biscayne. I'd driven past it many times and was curious about it - this massive, decaying, beautiful eye sore that over the next few months I got to know quite well and fell in love with.
So it began - between April and September of 2012 I did 7 shoots at the old stadium and then a final one in 2014. I didn't bring my agency models out here, as I didn't think the gritty setting is what they (or their agents, more importantly) would want for their comp cards and portfolios (plus, they may have been too pretty 😆). The guys I photographed here ran the gamut - from aspiring actors and models to go-go boys, bartenders, students, a guy I was dating and even a banker. Some of them were paid shoots who hired me, others were just fun and practice with a side of adventure.
I left Miami in late 2012 and didn't return for nearly 2 years. My last photoshoot at the old stadium was with Vince, a guy who I met and photographed once before and another time since (in LA). On the day of our shoot we found the stadium completely fenced off, aside from an opening hidden amongst the weeds and overgrowth. There was no one around, so we decided to give it a go. Once inside, it all came back to me -the shoots and memories I'd had here 2 years before. Most of the old graffiti had since been covered up with newer stuff, but the place looked the same and we had it all to ourselves. We had a great shoot - from shirtless to underwear to nada, as well as some gas mask shots for my 'Underworld' concept. Luckily we had already called it quits and were on our way out when we were met by 2 police officers. They told us we were trespassing, to which I played dumb and told them there were always people here exploring and doing photoshoots before and we thought it was ok. They didn't buy it and asked how we got through the fence. I explained there were no signs posted and there was in fact a large opening to walk through. At this point their patience was up and it seemed pretty certain they were going to ticket us or something. They asked if there were any other people in there and we said yes (in fact I wouldn't have ratted anyone out if there had been). They told us to stay put while they went off to find these nonexistent people. Sure, we'll do that. ✌
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The magnificent old place has some colorful and interesting history if you're interested in more than just the boys:
"The 6,566-seat stadium was built in 1963 and designed by architect Hilario Candela, then a 28-year-old recent immigrant from Cuba. It was completed at a cost of around $2 million ($16.9 million, adjusted for current inflation). A speed boat racer, James Tapp, was killed on opening day. The venue, located just south of Downtown Miami, was revered for its scenic views of Downtown and Miami Beach, hosting motorboat events, and events featuring the likes of Mitch Miller, Sammy Davis, Jr., and U.S. President Richard Nixon.
From its opening for nearly 30 years, the stadium was used for its intended water sports as well as concerts, sporting events such as boxing, and even figured prominently in the 1967 Elvis Presley film Clambake, serving as the scene of Elvis' climatic speedboat race. In the wake of Hurricane Andrew, it was declared an unsafe building under Miami-Dade County building code on September 18, 1992.
In 2016, the Miami City Commission voted to approve up to $45 million in revenue-bond financing to restore the stadium. An architecture firm was hired and restoration plans were finalized, but the bond authorization expired. City commissioners were expected to vote on a $61.2 million revenue bond financing on February 24, 2022. The vote was deferred until late May 2022."
📸 See and read more about my photoshoots from around the world: patreon.com/westphillips