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After a very successful first photobook, Josh Aronson has released Tropicana, two, a second part that includes more exclusive images than the previous one, and that is also highly influenced by the current political climate. “I like to say the second edition was a mix of my response to demand and my desire to engage in activism for Black Lives Matter,” the Miami-born, New York-based photographer says. Just before selling out – if you don’t have your copy, hurry up! – we talk with him to know more about his new, colourful photobook.

Lack of representation often calls for the creation of authenticity and diversity. The artist and photographer did exactly this in his Tropicana project. Aronson, who was raised in Miami, didn’t see the authentic essence of his hometown represented in the way that he knew to be his reality – Florida often having been commoditized and misrepresented to fit an ideal of a holiday vacation. As he himself puts it, Tropicana “breaks away from the sensationalized narratives” and shows what he knows to be true: “My work responds directly to that Florida we were raised knowing. Participating in this narrative, and making Florida my life’s work, means adding my gentle, queer, colorful, and intimate angle to the archive of Florida imagery.”

In Tropicana, two, Aronson contributes to this imagery through striking, colorful portraits of the state’s youth – among them, a collective of artists, activists and local talent – to showcase the rich social diversity he grew up surrounded by. When gazing through the photos, one can feel a sense of blissfulness and euphoria embedded in the vibrance of the pictures and colors. “My work is a celebration of the joy and intimacy so tightly bound to the lives of young people growing up in Florida. There’s a reason why my pictures are colorful, expressive and in motion.”
But such joyful book has also been inspired by the Black Lives Matter protests that sprung across the US this past month and a half, like a sort of answer to all the negative feelings and news going on around. “I had been protesting in New York, and I recognized that not everyone could do that. I thought that if there was a way to contribute while giving more people an opportunity to see my book, well, then why not juxtapose the two and create something special?”

The success of the first book ultimately came as shock to the photographer. Aronson expresses his initial surprise by acknowledging that he had never published a book before, and on top of that, we were in the middle of a global pandemic: “I was amazed by how passionately people showed out in spite of everything going on. When Tropicana came out, I had to put away my phone because so many of my friends were calling and texting me in my confusion”.

The work of a photographer – or of any other artist, for that matter – is important in the terms of creating a source of documentation of the present times, and so, projects like Tropicana will become markers in history making an impact on the new generations. Aronson is the voice behind the camera giving another powerful platform to the open-minded, diverse youth culture he grew up in. The photographer’s mission to capture honesty and authenticity is the foundation of prolific, meaningful work. He has successfully cultivated a body of work of inclusiveness and playfulness, and credits it all to his subject matter. “I’m indebted to the artists, activists and friends I made growing up here.”

Nicole Otalvaro

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