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Tampa photographer uses damaged streetlights to create art

As purple lights appeared, Selina Roman raced to find them before they could be ‘fixed.’
"Riverside Heights Becoming"
"Riverside Heights Becoming" [ Selina Roman, Special to the Times ]
Published Jul. 5
Updated Jul. 13

The streetlights are not as they should be in Tampa, there’s been an error. But in an error Selina Roman saw an opportunity.

“I love the idea that this was a mistake or a glitch, but I find them magical.”

"Davis Island Palm"
"Davis Island Palm"

After bumping into that first purple light near a Seminole Heights church on Florida Avenue, Roman started Googling “purple street lights” and found that her question had been asked on Reddit and Twitter. She kept finding more lights throughout Tampa and other people began messaging her when they saw them.

According to Brandon Campbell, smart mobility manager with the City of Tampa, the purple lights are a manufacturer error. “[A] coating covers the LED diodes on the circuit board that produce the light and filters the color temperature,” Campbell explained in an email. After installation, the coating must have worn off. Tampa Electric (TECO) will replace the fixtures as they are reported.

“I feel like I’m in this race to get them before people complain and they change them,” Roman said.

"West Tampa Redemption"
"West Tampa Redemption"
"Town ’n Country Shopping"
"Town ’n Country Shopping"

Roman likes to focus on the effect the rich color has on the surrounding architecture, landscaping and shadows. Sometimes she incorporates models, but her aim is to show how the lights transform the ordinary.

It didn’t begin as a project, but as more lights are discovered her body of work grows.

Before Roman turned her lens toward fine art, she was a newspaper reporter for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, writing features and covering courts and the local migrant communities. Now she teaches art at local colleges and creates art for herself.

“Wellswood Practice"
“Wellswood Practice" [ SELINA ROMAN | Courtesy of ]
"Seminole Heights, Refusal to Unpack"
"Seminole Heights, Refusal to Unpack"

Since the purple lights were a mistake, Roman wonders, “Did someone get fired?” but also, “Do they know they’ve created these beautiful moments around town?”

Selina Roman is a photographer and arts educator based in Tampa. See more of her work on her website, selinaroman.com, or follow her on Instagram at @selinaroman.