*African American amateur photographer, Devin Allen, is making huge strides in the digital world. Growing up, Allen had no intention of becoming a photographer. In fact, he had a rough upbringing. It wasn’t until his baby girl entered the world that he decided to change his life.
“Growing up I was just a regular kid, then I got into the streets. I went kinda to some dark places. I sold drugs to create a dime. When people talk about Baltimore I’ve been subjected to everything you could think of… I had a daughter at 19 and that’s when I decided to change my life. After I had her I stopped selling drugs. I stopped working a regular nine to five.”
The Baltimore native’s experience behind the camera spawned from a successful business venture in his early twenties. Allen was a party promoter. Initially his job was to promote open mic poetry nights then later manage the marketing side of the business. That job of course needed him to be vigilant to details because the business counted on it.
“I had to compromise and I wrote my first poem; but I just got comfortable within the past 2 years speaking comfortably in-front of people…Then we decided to take pictures and put them on Instagram… Right then and there I was like, Yo! I love photography this is dope!”
Allen used his grandmother’s Best Buy credit card to purchase his first camera in 2013. Shortly after his encounter with a series of unfortunate events, the young creative continued to surround himself with creative like minded individuals.
On the April, 2015 cover of TIME Magazine, displayed the very powerful photo above during the protest following Freddie Grey’s death. Allen chose to highlight that moment because it didn’t only hit close to home, it was a raw moment. He is the third amateur photographer whose work has been showcased by the magazine.
That stand out photo along with many other photos Allen has captured, are featured in his book “A Beautiful Ghetto.” The book highlights the frustrating time the city of Baltimore endured during the violent time. It is a voice for police brutality not only in their city, but nationwide. The photos are a testament to the disposition of public protesting.
“His death inspired all of us. Seeing what happened to him it’s harsh reality… It inspired me. I’m on social media a lot. I know people that knew Freddie Grey. Freddie Grey knew people that know me. This was an opportunity for me to show you not just what happens after Freddie Grey, but what he saw and what West Baltimore actually looks like on a daily basis.
“A Beautiful Ghetto” started off as a hashtag and now its a book and it’s booked two shows which is really dope!”
Most of Allen’s pictures are taken with an iPhone. Allen feels you don’t need an Canon EOS 5DS Body along with a 55mm lens or some other name brand expensive DSLR camera to get the “perfect shot.” In fact, he captures most shots on his way to the store, out with friends, family gatherings, etc…
“None of this was planned. I didn’t plan to do a book. Those images were done a long time ago. They were not taken back to back… I was documenting Baltimore everyday but a lot of people don’t know it was just me outside with my homeboys just chillin’.”
Recently, Allen was recognized and chosen by The Gordon Parks Foundation’s inaugural fellowship to have his work displayed throughout the exhibit. “A Beautiful Ghetto” is currently on display through November 18, 2017.
Take a quick peek at Baltimore through Devin Allen’s eyes below: