A faded ‘Jewish Disneyland’: The declining world of art deco hotels and sun-wrinkled retirees on the streets of 1970s Miami Beach is captured by photographer David Godlis as it slipped away from its’ 1950s heyday

  • Photos show older generations of Jewish immigrants in Miami Beach enjoying retirement. 
  • David Godlis visited Miami Beach as a young child in order to see his grandparents.
  • Godlis, then 22, visited his grandmother at the age of 22 and said that magic was starting to disappear.


David Godlis is a street photographer who captured Miami Beach’s decline in the 1970s through a series black and white photos. The area was no longer the Jewish Disneyland he had visited 20 years ago. 

Amazing photos show an elderly generation of sun-wrinkled Jewish immigrants in Miami Beach enjoying retirement. 

Godlis captured pensioners relaxing on deck chairs while they ate dinner at Wolfie’s and spent some time enjoying the quiet on the beaches. 

When he was young, the photographer went to Miami Beach to visit his grandparents from Russia in 1950s. He described the experience as “like visiting Jewish Disneyland”. Guardian.

Godlis, then 22, visited his grandmother at 22 years old to tell her that some of the magic was starting to fade from the region.

In order to capture the dreams of his grandparents, he captured black and white photos over a period of 10 days. These images were collected in Godlis Miami.

Street photographer David Godlis has captured the decline of Miami Beach in the 1970s in a series of black and white photographs as the area slipped away from the 'Jewish Disneyland' he remembered visiting 20 years earlier. A woman is pictured outside a drugstore which is offering discounts on insulin and selling cartons of cigarettes

David Godlis is a street photographer who captured Miami Beach’s decline in 1970s. His black and white photos show how the city has lost its Jewish Disneyland feel 20 years before. This photo shows a woman standing outside a drugstore offering discounted insulin and cigarettes cartons.

This black-and-white photograph shows two women ordering at the diner Wolfie's on Collins Avenue. In his book, Godlis writes: ‘Whatever I did during those 10 days in Miami Beach worked for me. I recognised that right away. Just two years later I was at CBGB photographing punks, doing the exact same thing. And have been doing it ever since.’

The black-and-white photo shows two women dining at Wolfie’s restaurant on Collins Avenue. In his book, Godlis writes: ‘Whatever I did during those 10 days in Miami Beach worked for me. This was what I saw right away. It was only two years later that I photographed punks at CBGB. And have been doing it ever since.’

Two ladies are pictured enjoying the sun in Lummus Park. Godlis writes: ‘I was going to photography school in East Cambridge, Massachusetts. A place called Imageworks. I was consumed by street photography.'

Lummus Park, Lummus Park: Two women are seen enjoying the sun with one another. Godlis writes: ‘I was going to photography school in East Cambridge, Massachusetts. Imageworks. Street photography was my obsession.

Godlis pictured pensioners sunbathing on deck chairs, enjoying dinner at the diner Wolfie's, and enjoying some quiet time on the beach. Pictured: Two women relax on Miami Beach

Godlis photographed pensioners relaxing on deck chairs and eating at Wolfie’s. Photo: Two women enjoy Miami Beach.

Man waits by the beach with a shopping bag

A pensioner holds up an 'Impeach Nixon' poster at Lincoln Road Mall

Godlis depicted a man standing at the beach, carrying a bag of shopping (left), while another picture showed a retired person holding up a poster from Lincoln Road Mall (right). 

A stunning array of photographs show an older generation of Jewish immigrants enjoying their retirement by Miami Beach. Pictured: A group of pensioners line up to cross the road by Miami Beach

Amazing photos show an older generation if Jewish immigrants in Miami Beach enjoying retirement. Pictured is a group of elderly people lining up for a crossing at Miami Beach.

Pensioners stand outside the Cinema Theatre, the oldest and largest art deco theatres on Miami beach. This theatre production featured vaudeville which became one of the most popular forms of entertainment both in Western Europe and America.

The Cinema Theatre is the largest and oldest art deco theater on Miami Beach. Vaudeville was featured in this theatre production, making it one of America’s most loved forms of entertainment. 

The Fishing Pier on Lower Ocean Drive is photographed by Godlis who aims to show the vanished Miami Beach

Godlis photographed the Fishing Pier, Lower Ocean Drive. This is a photo of Miami Beach that Godlis hopes to document.

A man stands with a hand on his hip and a lit cigarette in his mouth as he holds a little boy. Meanwhile, a woman is seen taking a picture on her camera as a girl watches on

The man holds the little boy while holding a lit cigarette and his arm on his hip. As a girl watches, a woman snaps a picture with her camera. 

Two women are pictured enjoying the sun. One is laying back with her eyes shut on a sun lounger, wearing what appears to be a swimming costume, whilst the other is wearing a below-the-knee dress and white-framed sunglasses

The sun is shining on two women. The first woman is seen lying down on a sunlounger with her eyes closed. While the second is dressed in a white dress and sunglasses, she is enjoying the sun.

A woman is pictured sanding next to a Chevrolet Chevy II Nova convertible whilst walking her dog. She is pictured wearing a leopard print ensemble with large white sunglasses

Pictured is a woman, walking her dog and sanding beside a Chevrolet Chevy II Nova. This is her leopard print outfit with large white glasses.

A group of women pose in front of the camera, with one holding her dog. The ladies are pictures sitting in the sun, with one enjoying an ice cream cone (pictured far right)

One woman holds her dog while the other poses with the group. One of the ladies is enjoying an ice-cream cone while sitting in the sunlight. 

A man lies back on a sun lounger with an attached umbrella to give him some shade. He is pictured holding a newspaper wearing thick black-framed glasses

The man is pictured lying back on a sunlounger with attached umbrella. A man holds a newspaper while wearing dark-framed glasses. 

Godlis Miami is published by Reel Art Press RRP £29.95 / $39.99 / €33.12 For further information and full list of stockists visit Reel Art Press.