Key Biscayne, Florida, is a delightfully peaceful bedroom community just moments from the hustle and bustle of downtown Miami. There’s a bridge you must cross to get there that spans more than the waters. It’s a passageway to tranquility and perhaps another time, contrasted by the gregarious and at times manic city it leaves in the mirror.
I crossed just after sunrise, and it’s the landscapers, and garbage truck drivers and coffee shop workers and dog walkers that you see first as it’s sleepy and affluent inhabitants stretch and yawn and slowly rise from cozy sheets and soft, warm beds to greet the day. After a brief driving tour of the extravagant homes and generous manicured landscapes, I aimed my rental car lazily toward the beach where I had planned to meet the model I was shooting that day.
Transfixed by the morning ocean vista and thoughts of sailing on a catamaran a million miles from my desert Las Vegas home, I was gently aroused from my salt-water daydream as her car came to rest beside mine in the empty parking lot. I watched her gather her things then as Hoami Vu’s meticulously manicured toes escaped the privilege of her polished black BMW and she edged gracefully from the luxurious leather seats, her warm and disarming smile rose to greet the Florida morning and me as it turns out.
It was the first time we had met beyond an exchange of texts arranging our photoshoot that morning. Yet as we walked together toward the beach, me heavily laden with humidity and photography gear and her fresh and natural in a colorful bathing suit and sheer coverup, the awkward politeness of meeting someone new quickly disolved to comfortable ease as we talked along the way.
Hoami is a confident, strong, and beautiful woman as her photographs affirm, but there is a gentle kindness about her that only intensifies her charm. She is adventurous and uninhibited by convention, yet she carries herself with an elegance that would leave the brashest of men uncharacteristically minding their manners. Values undoubtedly inherited from her colorful yet strict Cuban mother and the tradition and quiet reserve of her Vietnamese father.
In a few otherwise unremarkable moments on an empty beach that morning, we captured these images of Hoami just being Hoami. No pretense, nothing staged or contrived, just a girl revealing what the morning and our brief time together had sparked inside of her. In other words, the authentic stuff that photographers dream of photographing and photographing again.
You can follow this link to enjoy an interview with Hoami Vu.
Photography: Terry Goodlad