June 30–July 22, 2012
William Bergmann and Justin Lee, Bruce Bitmead, Catherine Shuman Miller, and Ben Ami Shemer
William Bergmann and Justin Lee’s photographic series titled Journey to Freedom chronicles through black-and-white photography the experiences of people currently taking refuge at Vive, Inc, a non-profit, humanitarian organization that assists refugees seeking protection in Canada and the United States. For many of the individuals and families residing at Vive, freedom means safety, stability, and hope. From November 2011 to May 2012, Bergmann and Lee had the opportunity to meet, photograph, and listen to the stories of the refugees who had fled from their countries to the United States in search of freedom. Lee’s photographs symbolically convey the refugees plight as they step into the light of freedom from the darkness of their past. Bergmann uses the American flag to depict the movement of these people’s lives through their journey to freedom. The exhibition features additional paintings and sculptures by artists Bruce Bitmead, Catherine Shuman Miller, and Ben Ami Shemer.
Rooted in an interfaith tradition, Vive welcomes refugees from diverse backgrounds. Vive is the largest refugee shelter in the United States. Since its founding in 1984, Vive has served more than 84,000 asylum seekers from 106 countries. In 2011, Vive served more than 4,000 refugees, 60% of whom were women and children.
William Bergmann is a senior at the University at Buffalo majoring in Visual Studies with a concentration in photography. He is drawn to the medium because of the way documentary images can be manipulated by light to create alternate realities and suggest metaphoric ways to interpret the depicted subject matter.
Justin Lee is a recent graduate from the University at Buffalo, receiving a B.A. in psychology with a minor in photography. Lee became interested in photojournalism his sophomore year when he served as the photographer and assistant photo editor for The Spectrum, UB’s student-run independent newspaper. Lee documents life with a creative eye to create a mixture of fine art photography and photojournalism. He is currently a freelance photographer based in New York City.