From junk to photo art: 'Sofas of Little Havana' depicts discarded couches in South Florida neighborhood

Sharif Salem stood near the street corner and gazed around for a few moments before catching sight of a beauty two blocks away. 

It was a faux white-leather job, and it was accompanied by a set of wooden friends. 

"That's a good one. I'll be right back," he says before running off with his iPhone 5 in hand. 

Within seconds, Salem is crouching in front of the junked white sofa that sported a wooden dining room set heaved upon it. Like a TV show detective examining a crime scene, Salem comes up with a theory. 

"I am pretty sure all this [furniture] belonged to more than one person," Salem says.

"The chairs weren't here earlier this morning. Someone just dumped them." 

After a few photos of the sofa, he's off to find another pile of art to document. He doesn't have to travel far.

Salem may be the manager of a home accessories store, but his expertise on junked furniture found on curbs all along his Little Havana neighborhood came by accident. 

The 38-year-old Little Havana resident has perhaps one of the most peculiar Instagram feeds (@slimting) in South Florida — with hundreds of artistic photographs devoted to junked furniture taken around his neighborhood.

Pull up a nice comfy couch and search the hashtag #sofasoflittlehavana on Instagram to admire his work. His couches have also found a spot on the "Sofas of Little Havana" Facebook page.

Some of his best pieces will be displayed at a special showing starting April 19 at the popular Performing Arts Exchange (PAX) near downtown Miami.

Salem's penchant for photographing littered furnishings began about a year ago when he joined the popular photo-sharing social media site and began taking notice of all the sofas, chairs and mattresses that constantly make part of the scenery in Miami's historic neighborhood.

"I've lived all over Miami, and there's no place like Little Havana," he said. "You have all these sofas everywhere, with beautiful palm trees behind them, or graffiti behind them. It's unique."

Salem said most of his photos are taken during his morning and evening commutes to work in Key Biscayne. Wednesdays and Thursdays are the best days because that's when the city picks up the bulk junk, he said.

His found treasures include everything from antique sofas in good condition to expensive leather furniture in complete disrepair. On some occasions, he's even found people sleeping on them.

One man, thinking Salem was a city inspector, began yelling and threatening him.

"He came out of his house screaming at me, and I had to tell him, 'No, no, it's art, just art,' " he said.

Salem said it depresses him to think about the story behind the discarded furniture. Was it a family who was evicted? Was it someone who found it cheaper to buy new cheap furniture than to move it?

"It shows how transient we've all become," he said.

"For our parents and grandparents, furniture lasted a lifetime. Now it's just something you throw away. Then it becomes art for me."

ijrodriguez@tribune.com; 954-356-4605 or @GeoRodriguez on Twitter and Instagram

Copyright © 2015, South Florida
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