Strange, familiar Fort Lauderdale on CNN Photos

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At age 10, Danny Ghitis moved with his family to a suburb just outside of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He relocated to New York after college but still heads south to visit his parents a few times a year.

On a trip in 2009, he started taking pictures at various spots along the city’s seven miles of beaches. The ongoing project has allowed him to rediscover a familiar place.

"Being a guest in your own home is a strange feeling," Ghitis says. “But in my case, it helps me let go.”

It led him to a slower kind of photography than the “run-and-gun approach” he learned shooting for newspapers. Now he often uses his vacation time to explore life along the Atlantic shoreline.

Fort Lauderdale gained popularity as a spring-break destination in the decades after it was shown on the big screen in the 1960 film "Where the Boys Are."

“I was not around in the ‘80s to party with the spring-break crowds or hang with the bikers,” Ghitis says. “But I have seen the boardwalk change over the years.”

By 1985, the city had passed a strict ordinance against public drinking to help shed its image as a mecca for college students. The strip where most of the shops, hotels and restaurants are congregated has gotten more upscale since then.

Ghitis says the culture and nightlife of Fort Lauderdale has always felt just outside of his reach.

“As a teenager I looked on from a distance, not being old or perhaps bold enough to be fully involved,” he says. “When I reconsidered the city as an adult, I felt my opportunity to dive into the debauchery had past and I was once again an observer.”

When he’s cruising the beach with his camera, Ghitis isn’t looking for anything in particular. But he likes to have a “balance of sincerity and awkwardness” in his images.

After years of redevelopment, tourists still flock to Fort Lauderdale. Despite the down economy, the area hosted a record 11.1 million visitors in 2011.

“I find the supposed paradise concept of the beach amusing,” Ghitis says. “Because to me it's just home, beautiful but imperfect.”

– Brett Roegiers, CNN