Eli by Daniel Zvereff

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Eli

by Daniel Zvereff – His blog HERE

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.

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33 Comments

  1. Nice series. One comment though about your mention of ‘gentrification’. I grew up in Brooklyn during the 1960’s & 1970’s. People were self-segregated back then but by ethnicity; no one was wealthy. Much of Brooklyn became a wretched and miserable place as crime and physical decay accompanied the drug culture and officialdom’s indifference to the seedier crowd expediting the demise. Buildings burned, innocents were maimed and murdered, family businesses were rendered worthless and countless lives upended The fate of Eli is a sad narrative but don’t trash efforts to make lost places livable again.

  2. This set does an amazing job showing Eli as a person with joys and challenges. There is a story behind every one of them and your photographs make me want to know his.

  3. I really like your work, and would like to know about the lenses you used for the shots (not the infrared, but the Leica shots 🙂

    Thanks for sharing your work,

  4. once more you can see what makes a photo a photograph, not the camera, but the photographer and his subject, regardless what brand of camera is in front of him.

  5. Great photos of Eli. I wholeheartedly agree with all the comments above. No disrespect to Mr. Zvereff, but if Eli is that much of an inspiration, how about we all start a fund to get Eli off the street? It’s the holiday season. It’s the holiday season. Why can’t we give to Eli? Photographing the homeless is a double edged sword. The photos are generally persuasive but the lives of the subjects are glossed over. I would rather live in a world without homeless people and sacrifice the photographic drama.

  6. Daniel…you have a way of capturing people’s soul. When I see the images you took, I can feel the mood and even feel the presence of your subjects. Very powerful work indeed.

    • Very strong and intimate! These pictures remember me what Steve published in his homeless collection: a reserved attitude and eyes full of life(s). Too much outside, so much inside… Thanks for sharing.

  7. My friend and his wife were killed when they went out to feed the poor in another country and give dollar bills from their purse. A traffic “accident” was reported, both dead, no purse. Americans should know two things: 1) don’t travel overseas, they hate us, and 2) they will kill you for your dollars (and the Nikon). He was a smart programmer.

  8. I know its been said already but I love the way that not once in the right up did the type of camera or any other technical babble come up. I am like any other photographers out there, I love new stuff. Just to have an unfiltered post like this really makes photography real and tangable. Thanks for giving us a small peak into a life that has so many untold stories.

  9. Impressive photographs.
    And everybody should visit your blog, with it’s unique mix of text, drawings and photographs. You connect to the people and respect them and that’s visible in your work. Very, very good.

  10. This photos are really good, love the blac and white and the lighting in some of them is fantastic. They are crude and real.
    To be honest some of the best images I saw here in a looooooong time.
    Thank you Daniel I’ll keep an eye on your site.
    Oh, and gues what? … Daniel didn’t menttion at all a word about camera, lenses, or stuff, you know why?, cause doesen’t matter!. I know photographers we get carried away very easyly with sparks and glitter of new cameras, equipment, and all that crap (Steve, am I allowed to say “crap”?, I hope so, if not, please, change it for “stuff”) … But Daniel here is demostrating that what matters is to be consistant, persistant, having a project in mind to work on and know your ABC’s (Apertures, Speeds, ISO and go!).

  11. Daniel, I’m following your work for a while now. And, as all your work, this post is really superb again !

    Thanks!

    Kris

  12. Daniel I am constantly amazed by every single picture I see from you! Your work is incredibly inspiring and I love the way you designed your homepage, which I visit every now and then!
    I was wondering: What’s your workfllow? I understand you are using an MP with 35 summicron mostly, but what’s your choice on film/developer and how do you get your pictures scanned? I’d be really greatful if you shared this with us/me!
    Keep up your amazing work!

  13. Daniel Great Stuff again…..I have been following your work for a while, like that “Russia with a Leica Monochrom” Piece keep up the good work.
    Cheers from Vancouver Canada.

  14. Thank you for introducing us to Eli. Your words and pictures make me feel like I’ve know him for years.
    Great job – and without discussing ISO levels or corner sharpness.

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