In the 1970s, Lee Smith remembers spending his weekends on the sand. Instead of carrying a smartphone, he wielded a film camera, snapping scenes of his friends enjoying life's most primitive gifts — sunny days and warm waters. "This was before Facebook and everything," the photographer says. "This is how we talked. This is how we got away from our parents and school and just hung out with friends. Life was different. It was much simpler."
More than 40 years ago, Smith had just graduated from high school and enrolled in Miami-Dade Community College. Most weekends, he and his friends headed to Haulover Beach to surf, tan, and, most important, talk.
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At the time, Smith had just begun to discover his passion for photography after his dad gave him his first camera. He hasn't stopped shooting. "I wasn't the best surfer," he laughs. "But then, when I got the camera, no one else was taking photos. I was an anomaly. It was cool. I just remember shooting rolls and rolls of film."
Most of the photos he took, between 1973 and 1975, remained negatives he buried away in large boxes. "They really haven't seen the light of day in about 40 years. But then I thought I should try to share them again, and that's when I started restoring them."
He describes the restoration process as "painful," with each photo taking about 20 to 30 minutes to scan, color, and clean. "It was definitely a labor," he recalls. "I have about 200 to 300 more to go through too."
The photos were shot in color, but through Smith's restoration process, he has decided to turn most of them black-and-white. "I've been converting them because I realized I get a better resolution and contrast when they're in black-and-white," he says.
Smith, now a web designer and search engine marketer, still finds time to shoot and has developed a liking for landscape and nature photography. He says he'll continue restoring his old photos in hopes of inspiring new generations to put down technology and enjoy life firsthand.
"There's nature and a whole life out there that we have to experience," he says. "These photos bring up such stark memories for me, but they're just a few moments in time. I was out there experiencing it. "
To see more of Lee Smith's photos from Haulover Beach, visit his Facebook page.