The artist community space is back for their latest iteration of FREE FILM: NYC, opening this November 3rd, to take their seemingly endless supply of free film and community events to Harlem, New York City.
The project's current artist-in-residence Kevin Claiborne, who resides within the community he is working with, sat down with us to talk about the upcoming event and what residents of Harlem should expect in participating with FREE FILM: NYC.
Hi Kevin, welcome to Lomography Magazine! Can you start off by telling us a bit about yourself and your work?
Hello Lomography Magazine! I’m an artist, educator, and a learner. As an artist I’m primarily interested in exploring themes such as Black identity development, the relationship between text and image, and the importance of narrative ownership as a means for survival. I enjoy using photographs (taken by myself and found from my family archive) to complete my conceptual work. I currently teach darkroom photography at Columbia University.
What made you decide to apply for a residency specifically with FREE FILM: NYC? How does the opportunity align with your artwork and goals?
My main priority for applying to the FREE FILM: NYC residency program was to share my skills as a photographer and teacher with people in my neighborhood. I’ve always walked around Harlem and made friends with people, taking portraits, having conversations, playing chess or basketball, but I have yet to have an opportunity to participate in something of this scale that was focused on photography. I think the opportunity aligns with my goals to share creative opportunities and artwork with as many people as possible, particularly with younger people, and it's a bonus to do this on the block that I live on.
What was the process like in choosing Harlem as WORTHLESSSTUDIOS' next destination for the project?
I know that WORTHLESSSTUDIOS desired this initiative to reach all over the city, ensuring a diversity of viewpoints, experiences, cultural backgrounds, and ages were incorporated into the project. It was a no-brainer to include Harlem, with all of the historic moments and peoples that have graced and will walk the streets of this beautiful neighborhood. Additionally, since many parts of Harlem are experiencing major cultural changes, gentrification and displacement, photography is a powerful and necessary tool for examining, documenting, and preserving this area's heritage, from the lens of its residents, both young and old.
What do you think is the reason for FREE FILM: NYC's success time and time again?
I believe FREE FILM: NYC is consistently successful due to it being accessible by design and not by accident. The project is about community building as much as it is about photography. It is a simple approach that encourages people to be active participants and creative leaders in their own communities. The incorporation of workshops where residents get together to do photo walks or learn how to make prints from their film negatives is a fun way to build community, in an approach that you don’t see too often. People come together to learn, to play, and do so in the comfort and convenience of their own neighborhood, all for free. Luckily, this project is taking place at a time where film photography is making a comeback, and FREE FILM is playing an important role in the resurgence of the medium.
What aspect of the latest iteration of the project are you most excited to participate in?
I’m excited to work with the Brotherhood Sister Sol, an amazing non-profit on my block who already have their own community of youth that they work with in so many ways. I’m excited to learn from the kids who have taken the digital photography classes that they offer, and teach them some new things about analogue photography processes. I’m also excited about leading photo walks around the neighborhood, meeting new residents, and the potential of finding some unfamiliar sights in a familiar area.
Do you have any advice to share with Harlem residents interested in picking up a roll of film?
I would advise any residents who want to get a free roll of film to come out Friday, November 3rd to Johnny Hartman Plaza at 143rd and Amsterdam, and get there ASAP because you don’t want to miss out!
What do you hope people will take away from FREE FILM: NYC - HARLEM?
I hope that people in my neighborhood develop or continue to develop an interest in photography, remembering the power that comes from controlling, containing, and capturing their vision of their world.
What do you hope to take away from this experience?
I hope to meet people who love photography and Harlem as much as I do. I hope to have a positive impact on anyone who participates in this project. I hope to inspire a new generation of photographers to be stewards of their stories, preservationists of Harlem’s history, making work with care and intention.
Anything else you'd like to share?
Peace and Love.