Eyes on the Island
Key West Museum of Art & History | Bryan Gallery
July 14 - November 5, 2023
The first exhibition devoted exclusively to the work created by Key West Citizen photographer Don Pinder (1925-2003) during his long career in Key West—including many works never before published or shown. Don Pinder: Eyes on the Island comprises more than 50 black-and-white and color photographs made during his 35 year career of documenting Key West history and culture.
Born and raised during the Great Depression in a house on Petronia Street, he joined the U.S. Navy after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Suffering from a dislocated shoulder, he returned to Key West on the advice of Navy medical staff, only to quickly join the Marine Corps. It was during this latter service that he trained as an aerial photographer, capturing compelling images over Okinawa and Borneo during World War II. This experience led to a job at The Miami Herald right after the close of the war, but his hometown beckoned. In 1953, he took a position with the Key West Citizen as its staff photographer, a job he held for 35 years.
Key West provided Pinder with a wealth of photograph opportunities—from notable celebrities to the destitute vagabonds—all skillfully captured with his camera. During his long career he photographed U.S. President Harry S Truman, Tennessee Williams, British Prime Minister Harold MacMillan and U.S. President John F. Kennedy. He covered business openings, military events, the bi-annual Island Roots Festival, local workers in the shrimping industry, movie premiers and Bahama Village church choirs.
“Don Pinder: Eyes on the Island tells Key West’s history on an intimate scale, highlighting stories we may have otherwise missed or people and places that we have forgotten. The exhibition allows us to reflect on over three decades of history told through the eyes of Don,” says Dr. Cori Convertito, curator and historian for the Key West Museum of Art & History. “His photographs are essential records of an island that has had an enormous influence on South Florida culture. His images provide an insider’s view of the community—its business owners, political activists, and creatives, as well as its mothers, fathers, sons and daughters.”
This exhibit is sponsored in part by the Department of State, Division of Arts and Culture, the Florida Council on Arts and Culture and the State of Florida, with additional support provided by The Helmerich Trust.