Freedom Within: A Photo Essay by Christopher Huot

This guest blog essay was written by Harlem based photographer Christopher Huot. It was developed under and curated by Joi Berry (AHMP’23) as part of an initiative “Black Futures” sponsored by the FIT Diversity Collective in 2022. These are the words of Chris.

I am grateful for this opportunity. Coming from East Harlem, a place where opportunities feel slim, sometimes people lose sight of the goals they once had. In a setting where materialistic values are glorified, for the most part, it can feel hard to breathe when your dreams are larger than life. In this essay, most of the people photographed come from the same neighborhood as I. They understand the emotions I feel whether it be the joy of going outside on a hot summer day or mourning the loss of a close friend. I selected these photos because of the feelings they exude.

Every photograph in Freedom Within holds emotions that are dear to me. Some make me more emotional than others. Some hold darker, deeper emotions than others. All in all, they are very important to me and what I stand for. I truly believe that freedom is within us. I am a person who is easily swallowed by my emotions, and I tend to be less vulnerable than I could be. I have lost many things. Material and sentimental alike. When I decide to step back and look at my life for what it is, I realize that even though all the things I have gone through I am truly blessed. My journey has not been an easy one. Yet, from a different perspective, it is clear to me that my journey has only begun.

These photographs feature upcoming Harlem artist and musician Roseboy Siah. Siah, being the young man that he is, consistently comes to me to get commission work done. Starting his rap career at 14, his music has been getting more and more popular over the last five years. His image as an artist is important to him, and as his go-to photographer, his image is important to me as well. Here is why the “Bell Ringer” photograph matters to me. When you come from a neighborhood where word travels fast, the positive things you do get spread quickly by the people around you. The second photograph features Siah in a place he is most happy. The studio has become his sanctuary. “Beginnings” was taken in the middle of the George Washington project houses in East Harlem, the neighborhood Siah built his support group. Siah’s music is loved by many, especially the people from here. Many of our mutual friends were raised in these housing projects. He has made it his mission to become an artist bigger than just a neighborhood star, he wants to become an international star. His community is what fuels him, and it is what he wants to give back to. This is something we both feel deeply about.

“Beyond the View” features models Kash and Josiah. The boat in the background was my main subject for this photo. I feel it tells a story of hope, while the simplicity of the actual atmosphere during the shoot was something I wish to feel every day. Just young people seeing the beauty of the ocean.

“Ootaman” features upcoming Harlem artist Dotty Boom. This is one of the first of many photos I took for my friend Dotty, whom I’ve known since middle school. This was also my first time using a point-and-shoot film camera. I wanted Dotty to be the first person I shot with the camera and this scene ended up being perfect in my eyes. From the outfit to the weather, everything was exactly how I wanted it to be. This photo opened my eyes to the beauty of film photography.

Thank you, again, for this opportunity.

Follow Chris’ work on instagram.