I didn’t start with any intention to photograph Eli. We would just exchange simple acknowledgments when I passed him by on the steps of my building. He never asked for anything, and I wasn’t sure if he even lived on the street.
When I first photographed him, he said with a big grin, “Now you can show all your friends and say that’s my Puerto Rican homie”. As time passed, I started to bring my camera around the neighborhood so I was always ready to photograph him. Later on, I began having a hard time leaving Stanhope street at all and eventually would just sit on my stoop and hang out all day, shunning most of my daily responsibilities.
When I discovered Eli had been sleeping outside on Stanhope street for the last 4 years, I could only admire his personality and humbleness towards strangers and his incredible ability to endure the harsh elements day in and out. Eli is a survivor. He threw no pity parties and always interacted positively with others, no matter how grim the weather or his situation was. He always had stories to tell and advice to give.
Over the course of three months, Eli never once asked why I photographed him, nor did he ask for anything else. He simply enjoyed the interactions and was creative in his own way.
It’s no secret that gentrification is rapidly segregating and pushing out the people who struggled for decades to make a name for Brooklyn and its communities.
Through Eli and the residents of Stanhope, I was able to make a small connection to the legitimate roots of this city and gain insight into the real lives of its people. I look forward to continue working on the Stanhope series with them.