Lele Saveri, BLM Luna 72

JTF (just the facts): Self-published in July 2020 (artist site here, no book link available). Softcover, 52 pages, with 104 black and white photographs. There are no texts or essays included. In an edition of 20 copies. (Cover and spread shots below.)

Comments/Context: Long before the Internet, zines were used to disseminate ideas, create networks and educate, and historically, together with pamphlets and other printed materials, they have been an integral part of a wide variety of political and social movements around the world. In response to the Black Lives Matter protests following the murder of George Floyd, demonstrations took place across the United States, and naturally, a range of zines covering interconnected topics started to disseminate. While some spread information about Black issues and offered activism guides, others documented the ongoing events, as they turned into one of the largest social movements in the country’s history. 

BLM Luna 72 is a zine filled with black and white photographs and simply stapled together in the middle – it has a DIY aesthetic. Some of the photos have distortions, glitches and harsh contrast, perhaps a result of being run through a Xerox machine and then scanned. This “low-fi” approach is intentional and part of its success.  The shot on the cover is a portrait of a Black man standing proudly as he wears a mask and a t-shirt reading “I Met God She’s Black” in all caps; other people are seen in the background, indicating that the photo was taken during a mass demonstration. It is immediately clear that the images are from 2020, shot during a BLM movement protest with the backdrop of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The date on the last page is 5 July 2020. 

The name of the photographer doesn’t appear anywhere (except a cryptic stamp of LESA on the back cover), emphasizing once again that these photographs are about the people and the movement, and less about the person who shot them. Yet, those familiar with the work of NY-based artist Lele Saveri will figure out the puzzle, as Luna is his ongoing series of zines. Saveri, a photographer and a founder of 8-Ball Zines and Muddguts Gallery (now closed), often says that he wants “to generate something that can help and support the concept of community, in a broad sense.”

The series of photographs brought together in BLM Luna 72 were shot primarily during the month of June, documenting multiple protests for the Black Lives Matter movement taking place around New York City. The opening spread shows photos of young people working on Black Lives Matter banners on the left side, paired with photos showing parents on the street holding the hands of their baby, all wearing Black Lives Matter t-shirts; a banner on the building shouts “Defund NYPD” and a note on the store entrance reminds customers to “Please Wear Mask I Know You Are Beautiful.” This opening series reflects the tumultuous events of 2020 and sets a mood of uplifting energy for the visual narrative that follows. 

Saveri’s photographs capture people taking their demands to the streets – they are marching, holding signs from their windows, cycling in solidarity, camping by City Hall, or simply posing for the camera with their signs. The images of people on the streets with banners communicate their messages: “defend back lives”, “no more”, “being black is not a crime”, “Native Americans stand in solidarity with black lives!”. One spread shows photos of people cycling over a city bridge, as Black Lives Matter bicycle rides have grown in size and popularity. One masked biker was caught looking straight into the camera, and the sign on her basket reads “Free PPE”. Later in the publication there is a shot of a different biker riding in the city with a sign on the back saying “A Better World is Possible”. The zine also documents numerous buildings around the city covered with graffiti and posters, with slogans and writing also appearing on the pavement – “fuck Amerikkka” reads one of them. 

Another series of images documents protesters camping outside City Hall. The subway entrance and nearby digital screens are covered with posters emphasizing one of the protestors’ main demands – deep budget cuts to the New York Police Department. The spread in the middle shows several images of City Hall statues tagged with graffiti. Another photo captures the back side of the entrance to the subway station by City Hall, covered with banners reading “Abolish the Police”. The last few spreads show signs wrapped around trees, simultaneously urging “fuck the police” and “invest in black communities”.

BLM Luna 72 is an immediate reaction to the events of the summer, created to reflect the energy of the moment and to document the demonstrations as they were unfolding. Produced as a simple and straightforward publication, it puts its emphasis on the movement and its people, capturing history as it flowed by in the streets.

Collector’s POV: Lele Saveri does not appear to have consistent gallery representation at this time. As a result collectors interested in following up should likely connect directly with the artist via his website (linked in the sidebar).

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