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Photographer Discovers a ‘Family’ of Homeless Men and Women Living in West Harlem

AndreaStarReese_photographyCountry and Snow White at Country’s home in a derelict sanitation facility he calls “the Whitehouse.”

Fragile and resilient, tragic and beautiful, self-destructive yet surviving, these homeless men and women are just people. Neither more than us, nor less than us they are a part of us. And they are apart from us. Nothing is simple in the shadows of the street.—Andrea Star Reese

The Urban Cave is the powerful documentation of homeless men and women in West Harlem by Andrea Star Reese. Formerly a filmmaker, Reese began this project when she enrolled in the photojournalism documentary photo program at ICP. One of her assignments was to capture “New York Underground”, which consequently led her to a train tunnel nicknamed the Batcave.

There she discovered a complex community of people; Chuck, Lisa, Krissy, Snow White and Country, that operated much like a family. Reese was allowed to witness their stories as a mutual trust was formed. She describes her images as a “response to the beauty of a place, a people, and the dignity, determination, and perseverance of this particular long-term homeless culture.” Reese captures a portrait of people, not an issue, and she is very specific about that. We would agree.

Reese was a finalist for the 2013 FotoEvidence Book Award.

AndreaStarReese_photographyWilly Colon has been living in a box on the street since 2004. Before that, he lived under Track 13 in Pennsylvania Station.

AndreaStarReese_photographyGeo takes a “homeless shower” in the “Batcave”, a dead end street on the west side of Manhattan. All hours of the day and night men and women gather to seek refuge in it’s shadows.

AndreaStarReese_photographyZoe and Jamaica take refuge in a subway tunnel.

AndreaStarReese_photographySnow White helps Krissy get dressed.

AndreaStarReese_photography In 1982 Brooklyn found her home by following feral cats to their shelter in the tunnel. Brooklyn sings and dances outside of uptown bars and clubs to earn money.

AndreaStarReese_photographyChuck waits on the tracks near his home.

  • http://www.vagabondted.com Vagabond Ted

    Great article, great pictures.
    Ill definitely share.

  • Tom

    This reminds me of the excellent Dark Days documentary by Marc Singer: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_Days_(film)

  • Ronald J. Parlee

    The best place I have lived was in my 1975 Ford LTD , The best home I ever had :