“Here in Palm Beach you don’t express your joy—and you don’t like publicity,” Henri Cartier-Bresson noted upon one of his first trips to the town in the 1950s. In 1958, the legendary photographer was hired by Life magazine to document its rivaled decadence, along with of Miami. In addition to producing a portfolio of artful documentary photographs, Cartier-Bresson made candid field notes about his time in Florida.

In an exclusive preview from PALMER Vol. 2, look back at Cartier-Bresson’s project, and revisit a bygone era of south Florida.

"In Miami," said Cartier-Bresson, "guests at the Hotel Fontainebleau enjoy massages under the hot sun. The hotels show all the wealth, one after another. When a hotel gets old, it gets its face lifted. Miami is a city that lets you pay $60 a day to say, 'I've succeeded—let's spend it.'"
"The Americana lobby has a huge screen using Mayan designs, but it is not Mayan. Would a Mayan feel at home in this? The hotel shows facets of the art of the Americas, from the Mayans on. They have taken a few syllables of each and put them together."
"What a big difference from Miami in this card room off the main lobby of The Breakers hotel at Palm Beach. There is utmost silence and the atmosphere of generations who have been here, as in Cannes. There is more time and less haste than in Miami."
"The man is writing 'Carole' on a girl's legs with suntan lotion. It is gaudy here and there is no embarrassment. Miami is a place for people to get rid of their preoccupations."
"Tensions mount during a horse race at Hialeah. The crowd is from all over; on the weekdays few are from Miami. I have seen this look in many places; there is an international fraternity among racing fans."
"It takes a little time to learn to sit like this behind a chauffeur in a limousine. The ladies were so dignified that they reminded me of the British royal family. Here in Palm Beach you don't express your joy—and you don't like publicity."
1950s Palm Beach
"When you go to Miami you feel surprised at the exuberance shown even by ladies on a stroll. Soon you are not surprised."
"These lively shoppers are on Lincoln Road. Shops give tourists what they want. They can't return with empty hands."
"I took this picture in front of the sedate Breakers hotel because it was all so discrete and quiet. The scene had a flavor of its own, with the big black cars, the hotel policeman talking with everyone, the golf, the monsieur and madame in a leisurely atmosphere."
"This private home is part of Palm Beach's neo-Spanish tradition. Here they don't look to the minute—they can dream of the past."
"For charity, these costumed ladies are about to perform in the Palm Beach Follies. Their satire went: 'Everything's going to be much worse next year.' They have the poise which permits them to appear like this; they can wear fancy dress and feel natural."


Check out the full story in PALMER Vol. 2, available for purchase now.