Plate 11 Gary Monroe Highwayman

 

You Won't Believe Your Eyes:
Bruce Mozert's Underwater Photographs of Silver Springs

by: Gary Monroe

As seen in Antiques & Art Around Florida, Summer/Fall 2008

After the Civil War, Florida’s St. Johns River became the I-95 of its time. Steamers brought intrepid travelers to Enterprise, a town in the center of the state. From here the adventurous could switch to a smaller riverboat in Palatka, the state’s hub for river traffic, to traverse the Ocklawaha River. These sojourners would then venture up the Silver River to its headwaters at Silver Springs. Tucked away in the deep interior, Silver Springs was the main attraction in the state then. 

People came to be lost in the wilds at this flowing pond which exuded mystery and wonderment. Soon visitors were paddled around the springs in glass bottom boats to gaze at the aquatic life. The water’s clarity made it seem that everything in the pools was suspended in space. However, Silver Springs lost its allure as Henry Flagler’s Florida East Coast Railway unfurled down the state’s east coast, spawning resort hotels and towns along its way. In the late 1940s the park began to reemerge as the primary modern-era tourist destination.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This new surge in popularity was brought about largely through the publicity photographs shot by Bruce Mozert. His pictures of young women performing activities, such as playing golf, peering through a telescope and barbequing, promoted Silver Springs in a totally new way – under water. Thousands of his glossy 8”x10” prints, which were sent across the nation by wire services through the 1970s, enticed snowbound northerners. Now tourists came to Silver Springs in droves.

Mozert’s wacky, kitschy images were prescient ones, intuitively calibrated to mirror and attract. His creations were forerunners to the now-popular staged and directorial art photography modes.

Bruce Mozert documented the sensibility of this modern era. He is an original artist who responded to his time and place with an unmatched imagination and unconditional passion.

The art of photography has a rich history. Now there are photographic collections that are both privately held and owned by leading art museums throughout the world. The value of fine photography has skyrocketed. An example verifies this trend: Robert Gurbo, curator of the estate of the Andre Kertesz, says that an 11”x14” print signed by the photographer that cost $1,000 twenty years ago now would sell at a gallery for $20,000.

Typical of many old-school photographers, Mr. Mozert did not keep files of his prints. He and I have combed through file drawers holding thousands of 4”x 5” and 2¼” negatives to ensure that we identified quintessential Mozert images for my new book about him, Silver Springs: The Underwater Photography of Bruce Mozert (University Press of Florida, 2008).

Bruce Mozert’s photographs will likely attract the attention of serious photography collectors and art museums. Like the Highwaymen paintings were ten years ago when they were being introduced, Mozert’s photographs of Silver Springs remain a Florida secret, a treasure about to be discovered. For information about acquiring original photographs that are signed by the artist, email mozertstudio@atlantic.net



About the author:

Gary Monroe is recognized for his photographic documentaries about South Beach, Haiti, and Florida tourism. He wrote The Highwaymen: Florida’s African-American Landscape Painters, Harold Newton: The Original Highwayman, and Extraordinary Interpretations: Florida’s Self-taught Artists, and more books and articles about nontraditional art. He is currently completing a book about Highwayman Al Black’s prison Murals. Visit his Web site, through which he may be contacted, at www.garymonroe.net

 


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