Nicknamed the “Sunshine State” due to a mild to subtropical climate, Florida has long been the magnet for people seeking a better life. In January 1981 the editors of National Geographic Magazine assigned Nathan Benn, a native of Miami and graduate of the University of Miami, to photograph the State of Florida. At the time of the assignment, the state appeared to be suffering from a succession of unfortunate natural, social, and economic dysfunctions, including environmental destruction, drought, illegal immigration, uncontrolled development, record violent crime, widespread narcotic traffic, pockets of deep poverty and corruption, and racial tension.
By the autumn of 1981 the chief editors, Bill Garrett and Tom Smith, were delivering extremely mixed messages of both high praise and condemnation to the photographer about the topical editorial content of the photographic coverage. To soften the hard edge, the editors added several photographs by Kevin Fleming. National Geographic published a tame version of “Florida: a time for reckoning,” over 41 pages in August 1982. The author was William Ellis, a staff writer at National Geographic.
Technical Notes: Nathan used Leica M4 and Nikon F cameras with Kodachrome and Ektachrome 35mm film. Between February and December 1981 Nathan shot 750 rolls of film, almost all by available light.