Eye On: Barron Claiborne

Avant/Garde Diaries
Jul 18, 2013 3:42PM

Mallence Bart-Williams founded a Freetown, Sierra Leone based creative collective called Folorunsho after visiting a group of boys who call themselves the "Lion Base" crew. This group of about twenty young males escaped turbulent childhoods and found each other on the streets of Sierra Leone. Bart-Williams recognized their potential as artisans and set up the tools for them to create handmade tapestries that were produced as a limited edition of sneakers for Collette Paris. Since then, the Lion Base crew has been expanding their creations, attending school, and changing their circumstances for the better. Photographer Barron Claiborne, perhaps best known for his iconic image of Notorious B.I.G., teamed up with Bart-Williams to document the youth living in Lion Base. Bart-Williams recently published a book featuring her documentation alongside Claiborne’s and cinematographer Shawn Peters. The work can be viewed at Dumbo’s creative staple Powerhouse Arena, opening tonight.

How did you become involved in the project?
I became involved with the project through Mallence Bart-Williams. After meeting her she told me about what she was doing for the boys in Sierra Leone and I asked could I be of any assistance because I thought it was a great project.

What type of impression did the boys make on you?
They reminded me of my own boyhood and how many people helped me. I feel I have to repay that debt and lend a hand to help others who are struggling to attain manhood and well-being.

Was this project challenging for you in any way?
It is always challenging to see the inequity and disregard that prevails worldwide and try to replace it with hope and promise for the future world you want to see.

How long did you document the youth living in Lion Base? Were you able to witness a shift in their outlook towards a sense of empowerment?
I was in Freetown and a few other places with the boys for about a month. The thing about young people is they always have that spark for change and challenge and can overcome many obstacles if they see people care, respect, and love them.

What do you hope people will take away from viewing the portraits?
That what they are observing is a reflection of them.

How is your role as a photographer important to spreading a message? 
I think being a photographer gives you a certain insight into the human condition and the fact that you can show it visually. A picture speaks a thousand words, but I am a human being with decency and dignity and I assume others are the same no matter what circumstances they find themselves in. We are called humanity for a reason.

Check out the Powerhouse Arena exhibition HERE & see more HERE.

Avant/Garde Diaries
Get the Artsy app
Download on the App StoreGet it on Google Play
Jenna Gribbon, Luncheon on the grass, a recurring dream, 2020. Jenna Gribbon, April studio, parting glance, 2021. Jenna Gribbon, Silver Tongue, 2019