Contributed by Zoe Nauman
A new exhibition of photographs taken of Miami Ultra Music Festival goers is set to give a candid look at the city’s biggest dance event.
Taken over the last five years of the festival, the images are an intimate look at why it’s so loved or hated by many artists and audience around the world.
The exhibition, called “Freestate” has been compiled by photographer Reni Arias.
A specialist in taking candid images documenting street life, his work focuses on capturing what people are feeling, and their connection in an instantaneous moment.
Reni said: “The Ultra Music Festival is such a huge part of Miami culture.
“I wanted to capture the sense of freedom people experienced.
“My work is to remind people we were once unified and carefree. And give them the hope we can be again.”
Reni’s last Miami based exhibition was Miami Power, held at Hippie Haven Art Space in 2020, just before the start of the pandemic.
It showcased his work on “the next generation of artists” with Puerto Rican, Latin, and African backgrounds.
He has also worked photographing the Miami Book Fair at Art Basel.
Well respected in his native Venezuela, Reni has been featured in more than 20 exhibitions.
His work has been shown in Art Center ‘Lia Bermúdez’ in Maracaibo, and Art Center “Centro de Estudios Latinoamericanos Rómulo Gallegos” (CELARG) in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas.
Additionally, in 2018 his collection book ‘Obra y Gracia’ was showcased at the Roberto Mata School of Photography, in Miami.
And he participated at the ‘Miami Life’ Grupal exhibition in the Miami Institute of Photography.
Reni says he was inspired to call this latest exhibition ‘Freestate’ because it’s his favorite song by British band Depeche Mode.
It also features on their album ‘Ultra’ which the Miami music festival is named after.
He added: “What’s great about Ultra is all walks and tribes can be together celebrating in dance.
“It’s a place where people from so many different backgrounds who are inspired by different things can converge. We need to feel that sense of freedom again.”
Reni, originally from Coro, Venezuela, started taking photos when he was nine years old.
He became well known in his native country for his ability to showcase the decay of the beautiful buildings of the city against the backdrop of economic turmoil.
However the turning point for him to change focus photography was when he moved to Italy: “It was here that I decided I wanted to look at every kind of format, for example video and photography.
“I also wanted to put more of an emphasis on street life and images of individuals. What is their relationship? Why are they there? How can we be accepting of everyone whether you are big, skinny, or whatever your color, race or gender identity?
“Why should you be made to feel marginalized or included? This was explosive to my mind and I wanted to show it through artistic mediums.”
This was shown in Reni’s work for Miami Power, which ran just before the lockdown in 2020.
Everyone included is expected to be a mover and shaker on the scene.
Reni says: “These are people who will be the next big thing. I think with Covid, it has slowed their trajectory, but it’s coming.”
In 2017 Reni was personally invited to take part in “Rethinking Venezuela From Different Latitudes” by highly respected Miami-based artists.
The exhibition ran at the Bakehouse Art Complex. Reni says it was a huge honor and enabled him to cement his presence as an expert in street life photography in the US.
Reni’s image of two women hugging in the subway in Barcelona, Spain, was also the focal point of an exhibition in Abruzzo, Italy.
He said: “I love taking photos of people that can shock and inspire. Photography gives you the ability to take a moment in time and freeze it forever. And it can almost be like an illusion of a present moment depending on how you take the photo.”
The Ultra Music Festival is an annual outdoor electronic music festival in March in Miami, Florida.
It was founded in 1999 by Russell Faibisch and Alex Omes and is named after the 1997 Depeche Mode album, Ultra.
It was scheduled to be at Bayfront Park, in 2020, before being canceled due to the pandemic.
It’s currently scheduled, COVID restrictions pending, from March 26 – 28, 2021.
The photographic exhibition will be held in two locations simultaneously as the festival, or just before it, in March.
The venues include Focal Beer Café and the Art Deco Museum.
Reni says: “For me, the two venues are the perfect combination of old and new. I want to marry all of those things together in this exhibition and give people hope for the future.
“We need to be reminded right now we still have freedom of expression and we can have fun.”