“I guess I’ve gotten to know my way around here,” said photographer Landon Nordeman while pulling back a curtain to reveal a secret shortcut at the Colony Hotel in Palm Beach, Fla., where he’s an artist-in-resident through its collaboration with Voltz Clarke Gallery in New York.
En route from the kitschy cabaret to a makeshift gallery, home to his exhibition opening on March 29, he passed sunbathing spring breakers and spotted Jane Seymour on the terrace. The historic pink property’s new owners, Andrew and Sarah Wetenhall, commissioned him to capture the iconic island in a series of new works titled “High Season.” Despite all his globetrotting for The New York Times, Saveur and Afar, Nordeman was oddly a Palm Beach neophyte. A quick study, he immediately fell for its charms.
“I was in love as soon as I walked in the door. Palm Beach is very much a place that wears its personality on its sleeve,” said Nordeman of the visual feast of repetitive color and pattern. “These are all the same ingredients in my work.”
Like most guests, he hit the Polo lounge his first night. The camera had barely warmed up when a blonde walked in wearing a dress in the same banana leaf print as the hallway’s Brazilliance wallpaper. He snapped the shot, calling the happenstance “a gift.” A regular at its silver fox-friendly Motown and jazz nights, she was game to invite him back to her place for further research. The visit produced another nugget that epitomizes Florida — hot pink and turquoise stilettos strewn across a white tile floor. He also befriended a glamorous French tutor who took him in her time machine to a white bedroom with Marilyn Monroe memorabilia and a crystal chandelier. Polo’s colorful patrons proved fruitful, indeed.
“Getting old’s a party there. It’s like a high school dance with a lot of flirting minus the B.S. because there isn’t time for it,” said Nordeman, who captured an innocent threesome on the dance floor for a confusing closeup. “I chose the image because of the third person’s hand. There’s an element of ‘What’s going on here?’ I love the diamond bracelet, too. It gives you a clue to the sort of crowd.”
There’s enough material from that place alone to fill a book, yet he managed to leave the premises to mine Worth Avenue and the International Polo Club’s Champagne-soaked Sunday brunch in nearby Wellington. Fifteen to 20 images will make the cut to be sold in editions of seven and hopefully inspire a different view of Palm Beach. His curious eye for the overlooked and unusual presents the more raw underbelly of the locale’s glossy shell famously documented by Slim Aarons and Harry Benson.
“My goal wasn’t to show the Palm Beach but my experience of Palm Beach,” he said.