Photographer Erika Barker in Wynwood Miami Florida

Embracing Change: A New York Photographer’s Transition to Miami’s Vibrant Scene

Why did I decide to trade the bustling streets of the Big Apple for the vibrant energy of Miami as a photographer? After all, isn’t New York City the ultimate Mecca for fashion, designers, jewelry, fashion accessories, cosmetics, and beauty? Well, it certainly is, and I spent a solid decade there. However, as many of my fellow creatives can attest, burnout is a formidable adversary. And for someone like me, who grapples with a touch of ADHD, change was long overdue.

I managed to navigate the challenges of the Covid era, somehow keeping my photo studio afloat. But I found myself in a creative rut, a situation that often arises when my mental well-being takes a hit. You see, I have this habit of picking up new hobbies every three weeks, convinced each time that it’s my newfound calling. This pattern was fueled by the New York lifestyle – constant dining out, despite being an avid marathon runner. There were elements I was missing, especially during the winters when I’d isolate myself and seldom venture beyond the confines of my studio.

For someone with ADHD, maintaining a healthy balance becomes paramount as we grow older. Proper nutrition, sufficient sleep, exposure to sunlight, and regular exercise are critical. Any disruption can send us spiraling down a path of self-sabotage that can last for weeks.

I realized that I couldn’t sustain these crucial elements of well-being in the concrete jungle of New York City. I desperately needed a change. Miami has transformed since my teenage years when I used to frequent the city while attending school in Ft. Lauderdale. I vividly remember driving my cousin through Wynwood on Miami Ave in 2002, a place I now call home. It resembled a scene from “Escape from New York,” starring Kurt Russell, or the Bronx of the late ’70s and early ’80s. It seemed like the area never fully recovered from the devastation left by Hurricane Andrew in the early ’90s, with dilapidated buildings, cracked sidewalks, and a prevalence of prostitutes, drug dealers, and the homeless.

Now, let’s address gentrification – a complex issue that warrants a discussion of its own. I can’t help but mention that it’s happening in Miami too. Moreover, the income-to-cost-of-living ratio is severely skewed, displacing many working-class families. Nevertheless, I’m optimistic about positive change, and we must remember that we’re all evolving, albeit at a pace that’s sometimes hard for humans to perceive.

With that said, I firmly believe that Miami is on the cusp of becoming a fresh start that neither NYC nor LA can offer, given their established status. Wynwood, in particular, has taken on a life of its own. The art scene is exploding, and local art galleries suggest it’s poised to become a Blue Chip art city. Art Basel Miami is one of the most anticipated Art events in the world, let alone the nation. Wynwood Walls is now a national attraction with tourists lined around the block to see the works of Shepard Ferry, Tats Cru, Tristan Eaton, and Peter Tunney. Movie and TV productions are increasingly choosing Miami as their backdrop. Central Casting is now open to Miami residents looking for a shot as background actors in major productions. Even Jeff Bezos and Lauren Sanchez have decided to call Miami home, with an impending Amazon office that will provide 50,000 jobs to South Florida residents. Change is happening rapidly, and when I compare it to the pace of change in New York City, I see an opportunity to be a part of something before it becomes a widespread trend.

I sense that something significant is on the horizon, and like Frank Sinatra’s iconic song about the Big Apple, “I want to be a part of it.” I truly want to be a part of Miami’s evolution before it becomes the next big thing everyone is chasing.

My goal is to infuse my New York style of photography into a market that’s still finding its identity. Many fashion designers here are seeking that unique touch, and it’s not just them – lifestyle photography is in high demand, akin to the branding approach of Equinox. Exceptional photography is potent branding; it conveys a clear and resonant message. Merely capturing technically perfect yet uninteresting images won’t suffice, and that’s the niche I’m here to fill.

Moreover, Florida is my home state. I was born and raised in Summerfield, FL, and I proudly graduated from Lake Weir High School – go Hurricanes! I’m eager to witness my home state flourish and become a hub for creatives that can rival the likes of New York City and LA.