MasterMinds 2017 finalist Rod Deal
Photo by Monica McGivern

MasterMinds 2017: Rod Deal Wants You to Carry a Polaroid Camera

The finalists in New Times' eighth-annual MasterMind Awards are a diverse bunch, representing the best locally created culture in South Florida. A group of editors and critics chose these nine talents from a pool of more than 80 applicants. The three winners, who will each receive a $750 grant, will be announced live onstage at Artopia, presented by Miracle Mile Downtown Coral Gables this Thursday night at the Coral Gables Museum. The finalists will show off their work at the event. Here's what you'll see.

Photographer Rod Deal wants everyone to carry an instant Polaroid camera in their pocket. Smitten with that modularity and materiality of instant photography, he composes photo mosaics with the images, almost like a jigsaw puzzle.

Deal uses his night job as a curator of the Imperial, an open mike, as an opportunity to take portraits of local artists, poets, and musicians. After photographing Miami performers for nine years, Deal is compiling a book with portraits and documentary shots of the performers as they grace the stage. The endeavor, he says, is a way of creating opportunities that he didn't have in the arts community when he was studying photography in Miami.

So what is Deal looking to find in his portraits? "Just a person['s] true essence or beauty that I feel is hiding underneath ego, style, [and] self-consciousness," he says.

But Deal isn't interested only in the physical photo produced by Polaroids; he has a love for the process. At Artopia, he plans to demonstrate techniques such as Polaroid transfers, negatives scanning, and emulsion lifts, culminating in a wall formation of photographs. He'll even create a colossal cardboard Polaroid camera to use.

In addition to working as a photographer and curator, Deal also sells rare vintage cameras and does location scouting for locally shot films; he even worked on the Oscar-winning Miami movie Moonlight. He also hopes to branch into outreach and education by creating an after-school program for underprivileged and underserved youth in Little Haiti and North Miami.

"The youth are our future, and the lack of art programs in Miami [perplexes] me," he says. "I have to do something about it if it's within my power... This project, I feel, is a small step in the right direction."

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