Freedom Within: A Photo Essay by Christopher Huot

This guest photo essay was written by Harlem based photographer Christopher Huot. It was developed under and curated by Joi Berry (AHMP’23) as part of the 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.

ΜΟΔΑ IS FASHION: An Introduction

ΜΟΔΑ IS FASHION opens on Monday March 21 at the FIT Gladys Marcus Library.

Written by Alex Nagel, Sunday, March 20, 2022

Beginning this week, the State University of New York’s FIT will be celebrating Greek-American Heritage Month with an exhibition curated by the Senior AHMP Seminar class of 2022.

Students in the AHMP Senior class prepared exciting essays about the legacies of Greek fashion designers, writers and illustrators at SUNY FIT in New York City. Donations and archives of individuals such as Despina Messinesi (1911–2003), George Stavropoulos (1920–1990), James Galanos (1924–2016), George Stavrinos (1948–1990), and others are at The Museum at FIT and at the Special Collections and College Archives (SPARC). A Greek translation of this introduction, kindly provided by AHMP Senior student Chrysa Tasioula, follows below.

Many of those introduced here were born in America, traveled or lived in Greece for some time. All were inspired by ancient motifs or referenced ancient monuments throughout their careers which we hope to introduce here. Essays written by the students will shine a light on some of these creatives and their legacies at FIT and in New York City. Thank you for reading our essays! Thank you for visiting the exhibition! Σας ευχαριστώ που διαβάσατε την ελληνική μετάφραση πιο κάτω!

Looking closer, one finds that there are many Greek treasures in the Museum, Archives and Library at FIT. Take, for a start, the elegant wardrobe and fashion ensembles by Despina “Depy” Messinesi (19112003). Working for over 52 years at Vogue, she donated gowns and accessories to SUNY’s Manhattan campus at FIT. ΜΟΔΑ IS FASHION also features facsimiles of original illustrations by fashion illustrator George Stavrinos (1948–1990). Posthumously honored with a Society of Illustrators Award in 2007, FIT’s SPARC owns original illustrations, and an illustration from 1980 is on the ΜΟΔΑ IS FASHION exhibition poster.

When Alexandros Rizos Rangavis (1809–1892), the first official Greek ambassador to Washington, D.C., visited New York City in 1867, he was impressed by the New Yorkers. He singled out the broad streets, Central Park and the holdings of the New York Historical Society. While he returned to Athens, many Greeks began immigrating and settling in New York. Today, the largest population of Greeks in New York City lives in Astoria in Queens. Since 1998, a copy of the so-called Piraeus Athena is standing in Athens Square Park as a gift from Athenians to New Yorkers.

We are indebted to the Gladys Marcus Library at FIT colleagues and staff who were so kind to lent us exhibition space. We owe particular thanks to Greta Earnest, James Ferguson and the Library Exhibitions Committee.

Thank you to all the staff at the Special Collections and College Archives (SPARC) team, the Library at FIT, our colleagues at The Museum at FIT, and the Office of the Dean of the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences at FIT and the FIT Diversity Collective, in particular Karen Trivette, April Callahan, Nanja Andriananjason, Eileen Flannigan, Gabriella Bucciarelli, Helen Lane, Sonia Dingilian and Melissa Marra-Alvarez.

Support came from Justine De Young, History of Art, Mary Tsujimoto and Patrick Knisley, FIT’s Dean of the Liberal Arts and Sciences Division. We also are grateful for the help with the translations, kindly provided by AHMP student Chrysa Tasioula.

The AHMP Senior Exhibitions class curators include Liana Arkay, Matthew Balcom, Sophie Benzakein, Nadine Hauser, Ivette Hodnovich, John Paul Jang, Zoe Klipstein, Frida Loyola, Richard Montañez, Vanessa Munoz, Tessa Norton, Stephanie O’Donnell, Natalia Orestis, Katherine Prior and Abigail Rodriguez.

ΜΟΔΑ IS FASHION is on display at the FIT Gladys Marcus Library, on 227 West 27th Street in New York City in Spring and Summer 2022.

Further Reading

The First Greek Ambassador to the American Federation 1867–1868. From the Memoirs of Alexandros Rizos Rangavis. Translated by Christine Gabrielides. Nostos Books, 2019.

Hamilakis, Yannis. 2007. The Nation and its Ruins. Antiquity, Archaeology, and National Imagination in Greece. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Moskos, Charles. 1990. Greek Americans: Struggle and Success. New Brunswick: Transaction.

Rozeas, Christina. 2012. Greeks in Queens. Charleston: Arcadia.

Saridakis, Nikos. 2019. Greek Fashion – 100 Inspirational and Creative Years. Exhibition Catalog. Nafplion: Peloponnesian Folklore Foundation [in Greek].

Xenides, John. 1922. The Greeks in America. New York: Doran & Co.

The Modern Greek Studies Association holds events and publishes regularly about Greeks in America.

Journal of Modern Greek Studies, 1983ff.

The Journal of Modern Hellenism, 1984ff.

The Greek Cultural Center of New York is operating since the 1970s in Astoria, Queens.

The translation below was kindly provided by Chrysa Tasioula, Art History and Museum Professions’ 2022.

Τιμώντας τον μήνα Ελληνοαμερικανικής Κληρονομιάς, το ΜΟΔΑ IS FASHION εγκαινιάζεται τη Δευτέρα 21 Μαρτίου στη Βιβλιοθήκη Gladys Marcus, Shirley Goodman Resources Center, FIT.

Απο αυτή την εβδομάδα, το FIT θα γιορτάζει τον Μήνα της Ελληνοαμερικανικής Κληρονομιάς με μια έκθεση που επιμελείται η τάξη Senior AHMP Seminar του 2022. Οι μαθητές ενασχολούνται με την κληρονομιά Ελλήνων σχεδιαστών μόδας, συγγραφέων και εικονογράφων όπως ο Γιώργος Σταυρόπουλος (1920–1990), η Δέσποινα Μεσσήνη (19112003), Τζέιμς Γαλανός (19242016), Γιώργος Σταυρινός (19481990) μεταξύ άλλων, στο Μουσείο του FIT και στις Ειδικές Συλλογές και Αρχεία Κολλεγίων (SPARC) που στεγάζονται στη Βιβλιοθήκη Gladys Marcus. Πολλοί από αυτούς που παρουσιάστηκαν εδώ γεννήθηκαν στην Αμερική, ταξίδεψαν ή έζησαν για λίγο στην Ελλάδα. Ωστόσο, όλοι τους εμπνεύστηκαν από αρχαία μοτίβα ή ανακάλεσαν αρχαία μνημεία κατά τη διάρκεια της καριέρας τους, τα οποία ελπίζουμε να παρουσιάσουμε εδώ. Κάθε Δευτέρα, τρεις νέες εκθέσεις τις οποίες γράφουν οι μαθητές θα ρίχνουν φως σε μερικούς από αυτούς τους καλλιτέχνες και την παρακαταθήκη τους στο FIT και στη Νέα Υόρκη. Σας ευχαριστούμε που διαβάζετε τις εκθέσεις μας! Σας ευχαριστούμε που επισκεφθήκατε την έκθεση!

Αν κοιτάξει κανείς πιο προσεκτικά, διαπιστώνει ότι υπάρχουν πολλοί ελληνικοί θησαυροί στο Μουσείο, τα Αρχεία και τη Βιβλιοθήκη του FIT. Πάρτε, για αρχή, τα κληροδοτήματα της Δέσποινας «Ντέπυ» Μεσσηνή (1911–2003), η οποία εργάστηκε για 52 χρόνια στη Vogue και δώρισε μέρη της κομψής γκαρνταρόμπας και των συνόλων μόδας της στις γκαλερί FIT. Στο ΜΟΔΑ IS FASHION συμμετέχει επίσης ο Γιώργος Σταυρινός (1948–1990) ο οποίος εργάστηκε ως εικονογράφος σε μεγάλες εκδόσεις μόδας και το 2007 τιμήθηκε με το Society of Illustrators Award. Σήμερα, η SPARC της FIT διαθέτει μια αξιόλογη συλλογή πρωτότυπων εικονογραφήσεων και μια εικονογράφηση από το 1980 βρίσκεται στο εξώφυλλο της έκθεσης. Ωστόσο, ακόμη, εκτός από μια κολακευτική και σημαντική βιογραφία που συντάχθηκε το 2010, ελάχιστα δημοσιεύονται γύρω από τις ιστορίες της τέχνης και στο πλαίσιο της αξιοσημείωτης συλλογής εικονογραφήσεων.

Όταν ο Αλέξανδρος Ρίζος Ρανγκαβής (1809–1892), ο πρώτος επίσημος Έλληνας πρεσβευτής στην Washington, D.C., επισκέφθηκε τη Νέα Υόρκη το 1867, εντυπωσιάστηκε από τους Νεορκέζους. Ξεχώρισε τους μεγάλους δρόμους, το Σέντραλ Παρκ και τις εταιρείες της Ιστορικής Εταιρείας της Νέας Υόρκης. Ενώ επέστρεψε στην Αθήνα, πολλοί Έλληνες άρχισαν να μεταναστεύουν και να εγκαθίστανται στη Νέα Υόρκη. Στη μονογραφία του, Οι Έλληνες στην Αμερική (1922), ο John Xenides περιέγραψε ήδη 80 ή 90 Ελληνικές Εταιρείες στη Νέα Υόρκη στις αρχές της δεκαετίας του 1920.

Σήμερα, ο μεγαλύτερος πληθυσμός Ελλήνων στη Νέα Υόρκη ζει στην Astoria, Queens. Από το 1998, ένα αντίτυπο της λεγόμενης Πειραιώς Αθηνάς στέκεται στο Athens Square Park ως δώρο των Αθηναίων στους Νεορκέζους. Στις γκαλερί του The Met, οι μαθητές του FIT, διάβασαν Κωνσταντίνο Καβάφη μπροστά από μια αρχαία ελληνική ταφόπλακα.