Silhouette was founded by Eli Dagostino.
Silhouette is the brainchild of Eli Dagostino whose journey has brought him from the beaches of Martha’s Vineyard to the streets of New York City, and whose zest for life has been celebrated on the stages of SNL, on the pages of Vanity Fair and in the seats of Carnegie Hall.
From child actor, to award-winning photographer to now nationally recognized multi-media visual storyteller, Eli’s passion for making a positive impact on people’s lives through the power of beautiful creative storytelling is unwavering.
Eli's early childhood life on Martha's Vineyard.
Eli was born in Boston in 1995 to Ron and Sheryl Dagostino. When he was one-year-old, his family moved to the dreamy island of Martha’s Vineyard to join a tight-knit community of year-round islanders. Eli grew up on the island and attended kindergarten at the West Tisbury School before moving to New York City in late 2001 so his mother Sheryl could pursue a career in acting.
Eli's new life in New York City and the discovery of his love of acting.
9/11 welcomed Eli and his family to the city and shook them to their core, but nothing was going to kill the family’s dreams of living in the greatest city in the world. Eli got accepted to Dalton (a posh upper east side private school boasting five-figure yearly tuition fees), but his parents chose to send him to Midtown West public school instead.
Martha’s Vineyard cradles its year-round youth in a fantasy-like bubble, and New York City was Eli’s first exposure to reality. Midtown West, its immense size, jail-like hallways, pre-war details, diversity in spirit and richness in culture, the grit, the grime, the hustle and bustle of it all created a buzz inside Eli unlike anything he had ever experienced.
Inspired by Sheryl’s flourishing acting career, Eli wanted to try his hand at the craft. He was quickly signed with an agent and a manager and began putting rubber to pavement. Everyday after school Eli would go to at least one audition. He’d bare all for the stone-faced, judgmental and painfully particular casting directors day after day collecting no’s. The persistent rejection fueled his determination, and the boiling passion inside of him landed him his first job, then another, and another and ANOTHER!
During his three and a half years in New York City, Eli had appeared in two Blues Clues episodes, on SNL alongside Dan Aykroyd, on the radio, in short films and so much more.
Apart from the exciting new school and the blossoming acting career, one of Eli’s favorite NYC childhood memories is of meditating with his father in their Upper West Side 800 sq. ft. two bedroom apartment living room. Ron would set a timer on their microwave to ease Eli’s fidgeting, candles would drench the room in an orange glow and Norah Jones’ “Don’t Know Why” would play softly over their silence.
Eli's move back to Martha's Vineyard and his transition away from acting.
The stresses of NYC weighed heavy on Eli’s parent’s shoulders, so in 2004 they made the big move back to Martha’s Vineyard.
Stripped of his city with it’s cornucopia of acting opportunities, Eli focused his sights on leading in school plays, singing in choirs and infusing his day-to-day with as much theatrics, charisma and drama as possible.
In middle school, Eli's shop teacher took notice of his leadership and nominated him for a JrNYLC (Junior National Young Leaders Conference) scholarship. Eli was invited to attend a conference in Washington D.C. at which he began to come into his power as a leader and then was later invited to attend Barack Obama's inauguration in 2009 through the initiative.
The spark that ignites Eli's passion for photography.
In 2008, Eli and his parents took a family vacation to Paris. In preparation for the trip, Eli and his father sat at their butcher block kitchen table late one night researching everything there was to know about cameras. Under the green pendant light and before it was time for bed, they ordered a little grey LUMIX that checked all the boxes.
In Paris, Eli discovered his love for photography. From the expertly manicured greenery and Paris’ abundance of timeless majestic art to old French men playing boule with club mates and couples passionately kissing on cast iron benches, Eli was on a mission to photograph everything.
Upon his arrival back home, Eli’s thousands of photos became science experiments. He spent the next year learning everything he could find about editing, retouching, fiddling, futzing and fixing. He experimented all day everyday and well into the night soaking up his triumphs like a sponge.
Photography allowed Eli to explore and create a world outside of the Vineyard bubble he yearned to break away from once again.
Eli travels internationally, comes out as gay, wins a national award for his photography and begins to come into his own.
Eli began 9th grade at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School. He quickly auditioned for the school’s prestigious Minnesingers choir and chose as many photography electives as possible.
In addition to pursuing his passions, Eli pursued his heart and shared with the world that he was gay! Coming out transformed his confidence and over the course of the next four years, that new-found confidence would inspire him to loose 55 pounds.
Lacking New York City’s grandeur, Eli began prioritizing photography in his schedule over his theatrical endeavors, and toward the end of his freshman year in high school he was the first person ever to drop out of the Minnesingers choir.
As his focus intensified on photography, Eli was invited to represent Martha's Vineyard at an eco-tourism conference in St. Lucia.
Eli faces ageism as a 15-year-old entrepreneur, hires an assistant and attends a talk that inspires him to continue reaching for his dreams.
The summer Eli turned 15 in 2010, he dove deep into photography and opened a seasonal wedding and family portrait business. He didn’t disclose his age on his website nor did he include a photo of himself — clients were wildly surprised when the photographer they hired showed up in a 15-year-old vessel.
When Eli was ready to hire his first assistant, one of his main requirements was that the person had a drivers license. Eli didn’t have his yet and needed a way to get to and from shoots! Eli hired a fantastically bubbly woman named Alex. One day, upon their arrival at a family portrait, Alex and Eli got out of her Saab convertible, the matriarch of the family came running over from the rental house stoop, went up to Alex and exclaimed with delight, “Ohhhh, Ellie, so nice to meet you, we’re so glad you’re here, we’ve been wanting to do this for so long! Thank you so much!” Alex kindly shook the woman’s hand with a smile and said, “Oh, it’s nice to meet you too, but I’m Alex. This (pointing in my direction) is actually Eli, I’m his assistant!” The look on our client’s face was priceless. A kind of, “Wait, I gave that kid $350 for an hour?!” combined with, “Oh, I’ve made a terrible mistake, what do I do now?!” combined with, “Maybe this will be fun?!” The session went swimmingly, and like all of our clients, they loved their photos.
Johnny Earle, the founder of Johnny Cupcakes came to the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School half way through Eli’s freshman year there. He spoke to students about his career, entrepreneurial journey and encouraged students to follow their passions. At the time, Eli was working at a local bakery called the Scottish Bakehouse. Later that day, after school, Johnny and his crew rolled up in their Johnny Cupcakes van to get some snacks. From behind the counter Eli told Johnny how he aspired to be just like him someday and that he was working on a photography business of his own! Johnny tipped Eli $50 on a $3 croissant and cheered him on. That moment has stuck with Eli to this day. Moreover, Johnny’s talk and the impact it had on Eli is what inspires him to speak across the country now himself.
A year after being deeply touched by Johnny’s influence and giving photography his all, Eli left the Regional High School to complete his high school career at the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School. The Charter School allowed Eli immense amounts of work study time so that he could pursue and grow his business while still in school.
Baby brother Ari is born, a project propels Eli into the spotlight, Eli has a once-in-a-lifetime encounter with Morgan Freeman and Eli reaches the height of his success on Martha's Vineyard.
In the first half of Eli's sophomore year in high school, he struck it big under the guidance of his photography teacher Chris Baer and won both regional and national Scholastic Art & Writing awards for an experimental portrait he took of his friend Charlotte.
Sitting at The Boston Globe for his regional awards ceremony, and later at Carnegie Hall where he was honored for the national award, Eli was elated, excited and inspired. The recognition helped fuel his weight loss and more and more he came into his power as a photographer.
Eli begged for a sibling when he was younger and gave up his efforts after many years of hearing “NO!" from his parents, but in 2011, Sheryl and Ron had a little baby boy who they named Ari. This little being turned the family’s life upside down, and the addition was bittersweet for Eli. No longer was he the center-of-attention but he finally got what he had always longed for. Ari and Eli are 16 years apart in age, but their bond is unbreakable.
In addition to building his photography business, Eli began helping local ladies learn their way around their cameras and computers. In late 2011, one of his beloved students Monina von Opel (who Eli still helps to this day) wrote about her session with Eli in the Huffington Post!
In early 2012, after apprenticing under internationally renowned fashion photographer Melissa Rodwell, Eli was excited to try his hand at her craft. Below is a behind-the-scenes video from one of his fashion shoots.
After apprenticing under famed editorial and advertising photographer Alessandra Petlin later that year, Eli was eager to move onto environmental portraiture, and in 2013, Eli flexed his new muscles by telling 177 islander’s stories for what he was calling the “365 Project.”
Starting on January 1st, 2013, everyday for 177 days, Eli traveled to a new subject’s home or place of work with an assistant, spent an hour with that person capturing their essence and soaking up their story, returned home, edited one stellar photograph from the shoot, wrote about the time on-set and the subject’s story and then posted the environmental portrait and companion write-up online for his growing audience of fans and followers.
Below is a behind-the-scenes video from one of Eli's 365 project shoots followed by a selection of eight portraits from the project.
The project’s name came from the fact that the project was intended to last 365 days, but the immense amount of recognition it garnered brought an equally immense amount of new business Eli’s way. The 365 Project will forever be remembered on Martha's Vineyard amongst locals as the project that propelled Eli into local stardom and set him on a path of massive growth.
In 2015, a bride's mother shared her biggest wish with Eli; she wanted to look amazing in her daughter's wedding photos and was in search of an online course to cure her uneasiness in front of the camera. To make her wishes come true, Eli created Camera Confident — an online program which teaches his 10 tricks for being instantly photogenic.
Below is a preview of the program:
In addition to gifting Camera Confident to his photography clients, Eli sold the program to people all over the world for two years before making the program FREE TO EVERYONE in 2016 so that even more people could learn to love the way they look in photos.
One of Eli’s favorite memories from his time on the Vineyard is of the night he photographed an event for the PLAN!T NOW charity at which Morgan Freeman was a guest! At the end of the night, Eli went searching for Mr. Freeman to say his goodbyes and thank yous, and encountered a scene so magnificent that he deemed it too special and sacred for capturing. Eli found Mr. Freeman sitting by himself in the private residence’s 30-seat home theatre watching himself in one of his most famous movies, Shawshank Redemption. What a moment!
Eli photographed over 100 family portraits and 20 weddings in his sixth four-month summer season in 2016; he had a staff of assistants and interns helping run the show, and they all worked together in a gorgeous studio that was within walking distance from the Vineyard’s main port.
In addition to the growth of his wedding and family portrait photography business, Eli had work published by Yankee Magazine, People Magazine, Vogue Italia, Vanity Fair among other publications during in those last three years on the Vineyard.
Eli sells his Martha's Vineyard photography business, moves to New York City with his fiancé, comes full-circle with Scholastic and finds his way to creating Silhouette.
In the beginning of 2017, at 21 years old, newly engaged and ready for a challenge, Eli sold his Martha's Vineyard photography business and moved to NYC where his fiancé Garrett was based.
Soon after arriving in the city, Eli was asked to judge New York City's 12th grade photography submissions for the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards (the same people who celebrated Eli’s work at the Boston Globe and Carnegie Hall so many years prior)! The opportunity was an immense honor and Eli was later asked back for a second year in a row in early 2018.
Unemployed and living in one of the most expensive cities on the East Coast, Eli drained his savings and soul-searched for seven long months. The question we’ve all asked ourselves many times ran through Eli’s head everyday…”What next?”
Whatever Eli was going to do had to combine all of his passions and skills, challenge him and it had to serve others. Eli wanted one-on-one time with subjects like he had had during the 365 project; he missed diving deep into people’s worlds, telling their stories in beautiful ways and sharing their sacred vulnerability with the world.
By Eli's side to help him find his way was his new baby Spoon. Spoon was born on April 24th 2017 and is a red-headed Cavapoo puppy who is VERY attached to his daddies.
In August of 2017, the soul-searching paid off, the creative ideas began to flash before Eli’s eyes and the culmination of his many adventures came to life in the form of Silhouette.
People close to Eli have said that his Silhouette storytelling work is what he’s been meant to do all along, and a former Vanity Fair photo editor said that she’s been waiting for Eli to blossom for some time and that Silhouette is bigger, brighter, more inventive and creative than what she even had in mind for him.
Eli now travels all over the country to work with deep people and creative businesses to help them engage with more of the people who need them most and gain recognition through the power of their own unique stories.
Eli tells his client's stories (each a "Silhouette") using photos, videos, audio interviews and the written word. Together, these multi-media elements create an approachable, relatable, feast-for-the-eyes, inspiring and engaging experience poised to make a positive impact while never feeling salesy.
Visit the EVENTS page to see what's new and exciting in Eli's world! Don't miss the photos and videos from Eli's appearance on Marie Forleo's LIVE show and from Eli MC'ing at the MET for the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards!
Eli would love to have you along for his wild ride; sign up for his e-mail updates and follow him on social media using the buttons below: