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Friday, October 31, 2014

Artist reception Sat., Nov. 1, for Occupy New Haven photo show at New Haven Free Public Library

New Haven Free Public Library Art Gallery
133 Elm St., New Haven
$ NOT FREE SPEECH: Photographs of Occupy New Haven by Byron Lembo-Frey Oct. 29—Dec. 3, 2014.
Artist's reception: Sat., Nov. 1, 2—4 p.m.

Press release from Azoth Gallery

Photographer Byron Lembo-Frey's photographs of the Occupy New Haven activist encampment will be on view in the Business/Periodicals Room of the New Haven Free Public Library through Dec. 3. The artist's reception is Sat., Nov. 1, from 2—4 p.m.

Byron Lembo-Frey was born in Nuremburg, West Germany in 1987. Through his childhood, he did drawings that featured a lot of colors, lines and symbols. He received a fellowship to Vermont Studio Center in August 2009 and graduated from Johnson State College in May 2010. His senior college exhibition focused on abstract art. Witnessing poverty, animal abuse, child abuse, alcoholism, domestic violence and arrests in his community, Byron felt a strong empowerment to focus more on social issue art to better his community.

Artist statement:

Occupy New Haven was a very controversial, but insightful movement that should be remembered. The people who really cared about this movement believed in creating a better world: They wanted more awareness of social, political and economic injustices; they wanted equal economic redistribution and political justice; they wanted healthcare for all people; they wanted to see an end to wars and job creation.

I attended an Occupy New Haven meeting to honor my grandmother, whom I promised at her wake that I would make something of myself. The first night I went to Occupy New Haven, I saw two homeless people share a cupcake; still to this day, it breaks me up inside to see how selfless they were and to see how much they reminded me of who I really was. After that experience, I felt an obligation to document Occupy New Haven.

Byron Lembo-Frey: "$ NOT FREE SPEECH—Occupy New Haven"
I graduated from college in 2010 and I struggled with finding a full time job for three years. I found part-time work at a place where I endured and I witnessed much unprofessionalism: supervisors publicly berated me and other employees; managers sabotaged workers; I was assigned embarrassing jobs as mopping the sidewalk; I was intimidated into doing my bosses’ work; supervisors manipulated employees into stopping shoplifters and then disturbingly scared employees to avoid giving them the ‘stopping the shoplifter’ bonus; supervisors made jokes about when guns were aimed at me during a robbery and also made jokes about my grandma passing away.

There was a robbery committed by the store guards. When it happened, a female boss was assaulted and a gun was aimed at her head, and two guns were aimed at my chest by two police officers. I earned little as $16 a week sometimes, so I survived on fruit from clearance sales, from which I had to cut off the molds. The situation made me depressed, ill, furious, feel objectified and devalue myself, but my father’s guidance, my promise to my grandma and seeing the goodness in people at Occupy New Haven, brought out the best in me again.

I also photographed Occupy New Haven because I felt connected with the movement through my experiences, and I want to be a symbol of perseverance for people who are going through same situations that I had endured.

As I documented Occupy New Haven, I watched many social issue movies: "Midnight Cowboy," "A Panic in Needle Park," "The French Connection," "The Harder They Come," "Last Tango in Paris," "Taxi Driver," "The Deer Hunter," "Talk Radio," "Born on the Fourth of July," "Boyz in the Hood," "American History X" and "North Country." "Midnight Cowboy" is my all-time favorite film, because it unflinchingly depicts poverty, depicts a character with traumatic experiences, humanizes homeless people and it is a realistic take on the American Dream; it pushed me to bravely take pictures of my content.

I was also strongly influenced by Soviet Montage Theory directors. Sergei Eisenstein believed a film shot can be crafted to create a metaphorical effect. I used this technique when I photographed Occupy New Haven and the Trayvon Martin protestors together, with the statue behind them. The statue looks down at all of them and it looks sad. Since the statue represents justice, the image is a metaphor of justice being saddened by the verdict.

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