“Tom’s photographs capture the beauty of Biscayne Bay, and consequently this exhibit is an opportunity to communicate to the general public what a special place the bay is. When people connect emotionally to the bay, they understand that it is worth preserving. I fell in love with Biscayne Bay as a kid — sailing, fishing and swimming. We hope and believe that photographs like Tom’s will motivate more people to get involved and be stewards of this precious resource,” Munroe, 45, wrote in an email.
Smith, who lives in South Miami, estimates he has taken 3,000 photos at Matheson over the last five years. His interest in fine art photography began in 1970 when he was on a football scholarship at the University of Miami, where he studied art and design. The mean season is his favorite time of the year to capture Matheson Hammock and Biscayne Bay at its most dramatic. Just set your alarm clock for early morn’ if you’re hoping to share a story with the photographer along the bank as he shoots the scene that unfolds before him.
“The best time of year to shoot here is when the great thunderstorms come across Key Biscayne,” he said. “I get up at 5:30, get a coffee at Starbucks, sit in my car listening to business, and wait for the sun to come up. I’ve been coming here since college for 40-plus years. It’s a quick exit from the maddening city — a quiet, great place. You don’t have to worry about parking, they have trees, the water, you can see Key Biscayne and can see Turkey Point on a clear day. You can see boats on the bay. There’s a lot going on here but it’s very calming.”
Stick around a bit on a midweek morning and you might also spot wildlife. Smith said he’s seen a fox running around and dolphins swimming by.
“There’s a lot to photograph and you don’t have to move,” he said. “You can sit in one spot and things go by, the clouds are always changing.”
Local historian Arva Moore Parks champions Smith’s efforts, along with Miami-Dade County’s involvement in maintaining Matheson Hammock which became the first county park when Charles Matheson gave 80 acres as a gift to the county in 1930.
“Matheson Hammock is a paradise in the midst of a lot of development,” she said. “They’ve done a really good job of holding on to its history and natural environment and it’s an example of which I wish there were more. There wasn’t interest in maintaining the natural environment back when Matheson Hammock was first acquired by Dade County, at the time. For many years in Miami, the mangroves existed only to be removed. Environmentalists realized the interconnection between the bay and mangroves and fish and weather. I’m excited and love having this building utilized.”
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