“Sofas of Little Havana” Turns Street Garbage Into Art

About three years ago, Sharif Salem, a native Londoner and part-time photographer, began noticing things left on the roadside around his adopted neighborhood of Little Havana: clothing, trash, miscellaneous junk.

But nothing caught his eye quite like the abandoned furniture, which seemed to be everywhere, in every imaginable state.

“It was just odd to see them,” Salem says. “It made me think, Why would people be throwing out huge pieces of furniture like that? Is it because of the economy? … Are people getting thrown out of their homes? It was a question mark.”

"I get people sending me pictures of sofas from all over the world."

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Salem began documenting the sofas and other large items, first on his Instagram page and then on a separate Facebook page and website. More than 1,000 photos later, his project, “Sofas of Little Havana,” is attracting local and global interest; Salem has shown his work in several galleries — including recently at Wyn 317 in Wynwood — and he’s sold dozens of the pieces.

The project is popular not only because of its documentary value for Miami’s most storied immigrant neighborhood, no doubt, but also because many of the photos are stunning in their own right.

In one image, a wreck of an entire living room set — a hopelessly disheveled sofa, television, and mattress — lies bathed in mysterious South Florida shadows; in another, a bright-orange, modern love seat, scrawled in graffiti, sits abandoned underneath a beautifully graffitied white wall.

“There are certain spots where you will see people dump stuff continuously,” says Salem, who adds that he never manipulates the furniture itself but will, occasionally, turn on his car headlights if a scene is otherwise prohibitively dark. Salem shoots alone, he says, although he also posts street-furniture photos from the legions of fans and other photographers who have sent in their own images.

“I get people sending me pictures of sofas from all over the world,” he says. 

Below, more of Salem's photos:

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Trevor Bach