Michele Reese is the marketing director for HistoryMiami Museum, a multiple winner of the Knight Arts Challenge. Hurricane Andrew. It struck South Florida 25 years ago this summer, and I can remember it like it was yesterday, especially watching meteorologist Bryan Norcross on television telling us to prepare for the worst.I was 11. It was my first hurricane, and I had no idea what to expect. As the night grew dark, the rain started, and the winds began to howl. Sheets of plywood started flying off my home, windows were opening, and I remember my parents using their strength to keep them shut. When the hurricane passed and I walked outside, I realized just how lucky we were. Our house survived, but I knew South Florida had changed forever. In the aftermath of the storm, though, one thing stood firm, the resilience of our community.
Above: Men who were allegedly selling crack cocaine in the Mutiny Hotel in Coconut Grove attempt to flee during the Cocaine Cowboys era. Photo by Tim Chapman/Courtesy HistoryMiami, Tim Chapman Collection. Note: One of the images below may be too graphic for some readers. Michele Reese is the public relations and marketing manager for HistoryMiami Museum, a winner of the Knight Arts Challenge. Sifting through images in Tim Chapman’s collection is one of the greatest history lessons I have ever had. If a notable event happened in Miami, South Florida or beyond over the last four decades, you can bet he was there, capturing it with his camera as a photojournalist with the Miami Herald. He loved news and it showed. When he retired four years ago, he gifted his collection to the HistoryMiami Museum. His storied career covered everything from riots and waves of refugees to hurricanes and mass suicides. But starting this month, you won’t have to go through his collection of 750,000 images to get an idea of what he captured over his time as a photojournalist. You can get a curated glimpse at his collection when “Newsman: The Photojournalism of Tim Chapman” opens at the HistoryMiami Museum on Friday, April 15. The exhibit will feature everything from the devastation of Hurricane Andrew to the chaos of the “Cocaine Cowboys” era to the waves of refugees leaving Cuba during the Mariel Boatlift. A war orphan at the Santa Tecla refugee camp during the long civil war in El Salvador. Photo by Tim Chapman/Courtesy HistoryMiami, Tim Chapman Collection. Perhaps the most moving images that caught my eye are the ones taken in 1978 after the mass suicide and murders at Jonestown in Guyana. Chapman was one of only four photojournalists to walk through and cover the horrific scene, which would have seemed unimaginable if there weren’t photographs taken to prove it really happened. Another photograph that tugs at my heart strings is of a little girl, who can’t be more than 5 in the image; she is dirty and appears scared, while standing in war-torn El Salvador. Sometimes these photographs are tough to look at, but they make you think. Chapman had a front row seat to history. As his friend and former colleague Carl Hiaasen once wrote in the Miami Herald, “You did not send Chapman to take pictures at Art Basel… You sent him to fires and wars and plane crashes and mass suicides in Guyana…. And those of us who got to ride with him in those kick-ass days cherish every harrowing memory.”