South Beach Runner Raven Stars in "The Collector" Photography Exhibit
|Mary Beth Koeth|
Anyone who's roamed South Beach at sundown has seen Raven's unmistakable dark-clothed, hairy-chested form moving deliberately up and down the sand. As he passes, a lot of residents who know the story of his 110,000-plus mile running streak will say things like, "I love that guy!"
But there's a lot more to Raven than the eight miles he runs every day without fail. In addition to his inability to let go of his 37-year running streak despite increasing health problems and pain, he has trouble letting go of other elements of his past. On September 7, a one-night-only photography and video exhibit at the Miami Beach Cinematheque will explore Raven's need to cling to his personal history.
The artist behind the show is Mary Beth Koeth, a senior at the Miami Ad School who is fascinated by Raven's story. She's followed Raven around on the trail, in the hospital, and at home for the past two years, amassing tons of still and moving images of the man's life.
The exhibit focuses on the Raven's "collections," which some behavioral therapists might call "hoardings."
"He collects different things," Koeth said. "He's got a huge collection of sunglasses that he found in the sand. He never wears them, but they're there. He loves baseball; he's got lots of baseball memorabilia. Old records. He has every pair of running shoes he's ever run in. They're all New Balance. So each photo represents a different one of Raven's collections. And they're shot in that style, more editorial," Koeth said.
Beyond the stills, visitors to the show will also get to see a 20- to 30-minute sample of some of the video footage Koeth has taken of Raven over the past few years, footage the artist is trying to compile into a full-length documentary, with the help of a Kickstarter campaign that's creeping towards its goal of raising $25,000.
Originally from Dallas, Koeth fell in love with photography during her teenage years. "I was that girl who was always in the darkroom. My parents would always drop me off at my high school early and pick me up late so I could work in the darkroom. I always knew that that's what I wanted to do," she said.
But like many artists, Koeth was afraid to pursue photography as a career because she wasn't confident she could make enough money with her camera. So she put photography aside and majored in graphic design at Texas Tech.
Upon graduation, she moved to Kansas City, Missouri, where she worked as a greeting card designer for Hallmark. Yes, seriously. But it wasn't as cheesy as it might sound, she asserted. "I was lucky. I was on a team that made products for Walmart, and the designs were the kind that you or I might buy, not the ones for mom and grandma."
The job eventually took her to Hallmark headquarters in northern England, where her neglect of her first love finally caught up with her. "I would travel around Europe. Every weekend I would hop on a plane and go somewhere new, and I'd always have my camera with me, wherever I went. And I'm like, 'Why am I not doing this? I've always loved it, I get amazing feedback for my photos, and that's where my skill set has always been.' I've always been a stronger photographer than I was a designer," Koeth said. So she quit her job with Hallmark and moved home to Texas before a peep at a friend's Miami Ad School portfolio inspired her to apply to the school herself.
"Looking back, Miami was so out of my comfort zone," she said of her relocation experience two years ago. "And I think now that I couldn't have picked a more perfect place for me. The digital photography and video program [I'm graduating from] focused more on conceptualizing. For me, with my design background, it's like anyone could take a pretty picture, but there's got to be something more to it," she said. "I got to intern and assist a photographer in Oslo, Norway, and I just got back from LA, where I got to intern with one of my favorite photographers, Joe Pugliese. You learn a lot more than you think you do on set, so I even see his influence in my work now in these past two months that I've been back."