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Pocketful of Sunshine State: Photos show Florida in a different light

Two photographers set out to show their home state through their eyes.
Michael Palmer and Demetrius play cards while having drinks in the water near the Courtney Campbell Trail in Clearwater on Aug. 1, 2020. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic many people turned to the outdoors to gather.
Michael Palmer and Demetrius play cards while having drinks in the water near the Courtney Campbell Trail in Clearwater on Aug. 1, 2020. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic many people turned to the outdoors to gather. [ ARIELLE BADER | Special to the Times ]
Published Mar. 23
Updated Apr. 8

If you’ve never been to Florida your perceptions of the southernmost state might be shaped by cliched images of strip clubs, senior citizens and Florida Man memes. If you have visited, your impressions might be limited to the beach, warm weather or theme parks. Florida seems to constantly receive national attention, whether from alligator sightings or politicians.

But for photojournalism students Sydney Walsh and Arielle Bader, thoughts of home conjure feelings and images that transcend the expected.

Aiming to change the conversation, they set out to capture Florida the way they see it, creating Pocketful of the Sunshine State, a short book of photographs, as well as an Instagram account dedicated to Florida photos.

Pocketful’s work captures the often overlooked aspects of daily Florida living. The expected is there. There are the beaches and the sunsets, a house’s yard in the suburbs, covered in pink plastic flamingos, but the images present these familiar scenes with a sentimentality, prompting a considerable second look.

“These past four years have been a strange time for our state. Pocketful of the Sunshine State contains pictures of Florida from the years 2016-2020. The people here, the quirky details in daily life, the perpetual humidity and even the way light shines is distinctive to this place,” Walsh and Bader said in an artist statement.

“This is where we grew up. This is a collective portrait of how we see our home.”

The photo zine Pocketful of the Sunshine State is self-published by Arielle Bader and Sydney Walsh, who both hail from Florida but are studying photojournalism at Corcoran School of the Arts & Design at George Washington University.

Bader will be joining the Tampa Bay Times’ photo staff in 2021 for a summer internship.

Keating Mosher, 21, reflected in a puddle, plays a solo session of basketball on Dec. 15, 2018, in Tampa.
Keating Mosher, 21, reflected in a puddle, plays a solo session of basketball on Dec. 15, 2018, in Tampa. [ ARIELLE BADER | Special to the Times ]
Two people sit on a bench before sunrise at Ballast Point Park on Oct. 20, 2019, in Tampa.
Two people sit on a bench before sunrise at Ballast Point Park on Oct. 20, 2019, in Tampa. [ ARIELLE BADER | Special to the Times ]
A pineapple top freshly cut from a home garden in Jupiter on March 28, 2020.
A pineapple top freshly cut from a home garden in Jupiter on March 28, 2020. [ SYDNEY WALSH | Special to the Times ]
From left, Sierra Ashley, Jerry Lucas, Hunter Orton and Keon Williams at Cato's Bridge in Tequesta on Sept. 11, 2020. They spent the day there as a farewell to Jerry, who was joining the military the next week.
From left, Sierra Ashley, Jerry Lucas, Hunter Orton and Keon Williams at Cato's Bridge in Tequesta on Sept. 11, 2020. They spent the day there as a farewell to Jerry, who was joining the military the next week. [ SYDNEY WALSH | Special to the Times ]
Lourdie Stephen in Palm Beach on Sept. 18, 2020. She spent the morning at brunch with her friends then enjoyed walking around Palm Beach.
Lourdie Stephen in Palm Beach on Sept. 18, 2020. She spent the morning at brunch with her friends then enjoyed walking around Palm Beach. [ SYDNEY WALSH | Special to the Times ]
Members of the Berkeley Barracudas swim team float on their swim coach, Kevin Rosepapa, in Tampa on Jan. 3, 2016.
Members of the Berkeley Barracudas swim team float on their swim coach, Kevin Rosepapa, in Tampa on Jan. 3, 2016. [ ARIELLE BADER | Special to the Times ]
[L-R] Miguel Zuniga and his mother Jhoany Martinez at Dubois Park in Jupiter on Sept. 13, 2020. They spent their Sunday evening here with family and friends enjoying the park and watching the kids crack open fallen coconuts.
[L-R] Miguel Zuniga and his mother Jhoany Martinez at Dubois Park in Jupiter on Sept. 13, 2020. They spent their Sunday evening here with family and friends enjoying the park and watching the kids crack open fallen coconuts. [ SYDNEY WALSH | Special to the Times ]
A flower floats in a pool, as seen from underwater, on May 27. 2018 in Anna Maria.
A flower floats in a pool, as seen from underwater, on May 27. 2018 in Anna Maria. [ ARIELLE BADER | Special to the Times ]
Robert Cecil gets ready for a swim workout on March 26, 2020 in Anna Maria. He is a college swimmer at Northwestern University but was sent home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With pools closed, he turned to the only open water — the ocean, to train and stay in shape for Olympics trails.
Robert Cecil gets ready for a swim workout on March 26, 2020 in Anna Maria. He is a college swimmer at Northwestern University but was sent home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With pools closed, he turned to the only open water — the ocean, to train and stay in shape for Olympics trails. [ ARIELLE BADER | Special to the Times ]
A couple lay in a community pool in Jupiter during the COVID-19 pandemic on August 11, 2020.
A couple lay in a community pool in Jupiter during the COVID-19 pandemic on August 11, 2020. [ SYDNEY WALSH | Special to the Times ]
Michelle Walsh watches a daily press briefing on television while in quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic at home in Jupiter on April 7, 2020.
Michelle Walsh watches a daily press briefing on television while in quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic at home in Jupiter on April 7, 2020. [ SYDNEY WALSH | Special to the Times ]
Plastic flamingos in Abacoa in Jupiter stand in the grass on August 11, 2020. The community collectively placed the flamingos here during the COVID-19 pandemic to create a sense of togetherness during an uncertain time.
Plastic flamingos in Abacoa in Jupiter stand in the grass on August 11, 2020. The community collectively placed the flamingos here during the COVID-19 pandemic to create a sense of togetherness during an uncertain time. [ SYDNEY WALSH | Special to the Times ]

Follow Arielle Bader and Sydney Walsh on Instagram at @abaderphoto and @sydneywalshphoto.

The Florida-centric Everyday Florida Project started by Bader and Walsh is on Instagram @everydayfl.