PROSPECT-LEFFERTS GARDENS — When Courtney Mooney moved to the neighborhood last summer, she says she “instantly noticed change,” starting with a big new apartment building that sprouted up on her block.
At the same time, she fell in love with the area’s culture as it exists now — very different from the small, rural and “predominantly white” town in Maine where she grew up as one of the few interracial kids; her father is Native-American.
“My dad was the darkest in the town,” she said. “I’ve always craved foreign culture. I’ve always craved identity other than my own. So, instantly I noticed the Afro-Caribbean neighborhood was changing.”
The move — made to live with her partner, a musician in the local band JOAN — coincided with a foray into old-school, black-and-white darkroom photography, a medium perfect for capturing the neighborhood, she found.
Mooney photographed this longtime neighborhood resident as he was on his way to work. "I asked to take his photo and he said, 'You have one shot,'" she said. "It was a quick interaction but deep." (Photo credit: Courtney Mooney)
“When I processed the film and got it and had that first print, I was just like, ‘I’m doing this.’ I felt the change and the shift and felt that something needed to be preserved,” she said.
Now, months after she began photographing neighbors, neighborhood characters and perfect strangers in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, 44 of her photos are on display at a local coffee shop, the Tugboat Tea Company, thanks to a partnership with PLG Arts, a neighborhood arts group.
The exhibit, “Souls of Lefferts,” opened this weekend and will be on display through Feb. 29, according to Mooney, who goes by the artist name Luna Solo.
Her subjects include her super, children playing during the West Indian Day Parade, the owners of the local market Wholesome Foods and two Avon saleswomen often seen at their marketing table on the corner of Nostrand Avenue and Empire Boulevard.
The display also includes plenty of people Mooney only met once, like a set of triplets whose mother was refused bus service on the B44 during a downpour, she said. The resulting photo shows the bundled-up toddlers in their baby carriage, staring down the camera with similar curious expressions.
“Every day I see people who I feel I want to connect with and need to give space to,” Mooney said.
For now, Mooney is continuing “Souls of Lefferts” by herself (she has covered all costs for film and processing so far), but hopes to bring in others who may want to contribute work to it or help fund it in the future. She has no end date for the project in mind.
“This neighborhood is changing so quickly that I think now is the time to capture it,” she said.
The “Souls of Lefferts” photography exhibit is on display at the Tugboat Tea Company now through Feb. 29 at 546 Flatbush Ave. For more information about the project, visit LunaSolo.com.