The Haddon Hall is a lovely portrait of the aged residents of the titular hall, taken between 1999 and 2002 by Naomi Harris. It was Charcoal Book Club’s photobook of the month for September, 2021, and, in 2019, took Second Prize at the Kessel Dummy Award and won the FUAM Dummy Book Award. It was copublished by MASA and Void, and seems largely, and sadly, sold out.
As everyone, including Harris herself, explains, the project started with the intent to photograph holocaust survivors as they summered in Miami Beach, but very quickly morphed into a study of the hotel. Harris moved into the hotel for a summer, and later moved to Miami Beach for a time, and befriended the residents. They took the younger woman on as a sort of adopted granddaughter and she accompanied them on various outings, dined and hung out at the pool with them, visited them in their rooms, and generally shared a few years with them.
Harris shot the project on Ektachrome with handheld flash, which work together to give the photographs a lurid, almost Martin Parr quality that works really well with the sorta shabby, if once grand, hotel and the Florida sunshine. Harris is more tender than Parr, I think, or has more obvious love for her subjects than Parr’s often-underhanded schtick, and I suspect the subjects would be more or less flattered by the portrayal, if they were still around to see it.
Harris ended the project in 2002, when hotel management began converting the hotel to serve younger, more affluent guests. Some of her friends also passed away or moved into assisted living facilities, and many were simply evicted as the hotel transitioned. It’s a sort of sad end that isn’t at all captured in the photography. While the subjects are all older, older than my grandparents were at the time, there’s a vitality and energy to the pictures. You can see that they’re all (mostly) having a ball in their sort of Melrose Place living arrangement, sorta reliving High School to an extent, with the expected preppies and jocks and outcasts and cliques and all. It’s really a great portrait, and I’m delighted to have a copy.
Overall, I rate the Haddon Hall a strong 4.2 stars.
At time of writing, Void Books and Charcoal claim to still have copies available. Used copies are few in number and rather dear on bookfinder, and so I’m not going to link to them. Harris shares many images from the project on her great website, along with selections from many other bodies of work. She’s done some interesting things since her work for Haddon Hall, and it’s clear that the project left its mark on her. We’re lucky to have the work in book form, now, or I am, anyway, and be sure to go check her out.