“I believe that you can literally change the world with a photograph,” states Travon Free. The artist uses street photography strategies to present deeply felt political stands, and the results ascend toward the realm of art. Free’s images often balance at the edge of chaos—bursting with energy and emotion, filled with moments of flux and change—much like the country itself. “Chaotic and black and beautiful” is his own description. The artist is a directly involved chronicler. Free made these photographs at Los Angeles street demonstrations that followed the police killing of George Floyd. “When I heard about George Floyd, I thought this is immediate, this is important. I need to be out there.”
Free took up street photography as a relief valve from his day job in New York City—co-head writer for Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. “When Trump was elected, writing comedy became total political immersion. I needed something that would take my mind off the brutality of it all, so I turned to photography.” Free carried his Leica Q camera everywhere. And he learned from two notable mentors: Ruddy Roye, the acclaimed Brooklyn-based photojournalist and street shooter, and Sarah Elizabeth Lewis, a Harvard professor who focuses on justice through art and photography.
Image: Travon Free, Untitled, 2020. Courtesy of the artist.