Just thought I’d share this article as a current events type deal before heading out for today. Though I don’t really get photography as an art far as all the technicalities are concerned (I mean, there are good pictures and then there are…good pictures), I do love the camera myself and I do think photography plays an important role in the unfolding of historical events. Had it not been for photographers, we would not have the opportunity to relive some of the most profound moments in history with such intimacy. As for my thoughts on the specific events rocking the country, I will have to come back with another post when I have more time, however I am led, we will see. Till then stay in tune:
Devin Allen is a self-taught photographer and Baltimore native. His images from the protests following the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody have received thousands of likes and shares on social media. As the situation continued to unfold in his hometown, Fusion caught up with Allen to learn more about his work and the gaps in the narratives being reported on the news versus those being experienced on the ground.
Fusion: So how old are you and how long have you been doing photography?
Devin Allen: Well, I’m 26, and I started photography [about] 3 years ago, in 2013.
Fusion: What got you started?
Devin Allen: Basically, hanging in the city, we don’t have a lot to do…one of my friends actually got me into doing poetry, so I had my own poetry night. But I suck. I can write poetry but I cannot perform. So I had to find a way to give people that poetry feel, but visually, so I started making T-shirts. From there I got into photography. I would take pictures and put them on T-shirts and eventually, I fell in love with it and that became my major outlet since then.
Fusion: How long have you been in Baltimore?
Devin Allen: All my life.
Fusion: Your whole life, so you’re local?
Devin Allen: Yes.
Fusion: What stands out to you about Baltimore when you are taking pictures? What makes Baltimore so interesting to you?
Devin Allen: It’s just real. Baltimore is a real city. It don’t cut no corners. You know, when you get around certain people or certain places it don’t feel real? You know, like everything seems perfect? Baltimore is not that. It’s a beautiful place, it’s like a rose in concrete to me. It’s a beautiful place, but most people don’t see it like I see it. I was born and raised here, so I see the negative, I see the positive. I see the good and the bad. I’ve been on both sides of the fence – both the good side and the bad side. So that’s what it is for me – it’s a beautiful place, and it’s real.
Fusion: When you say you’ve been on the bad side, what do you mean? What is the bad Baltimore that you know and what is the good Baltimore that you know?
Devin Allen: Well, growing up here is very stressful. You can get caught up in a lot of things if you don’t have a strong environment [around you]. Growing up, I got caught up in a lot of foolishness because of friends, where I hung at, and umm…I was raised by my mother and her family, I was raised good, but I just had affection for the streets. I had a lot of friends in the hood who’d run the streets all day, I hung with a lot of people. I lost a lot of friends. I buried both my best friends back in 2013. Both of them were murdered. I lost both my best friends, so they’re like my inspiration. I was just doing whatever, you know, to get the day passed. I tried the school thing, didn’t work. Got a job, but you know it’s hard to stay the narrow with so much stress and negativity. Drugs everywhere, crack-infested, heroin-infested. It’s very difficult, but [an] easy city to get caught up in. As far as being on the bad side, I hung with drug dealers and I ran the streets with some bad people, you know?
Photography actually got me away from that because both my best friends were both murdered; one was murdered on a Friday, and my other best friend was murdered on a Saturday. The only reason I was not with them was because I had photo shoots both days. And that kind of bridged the gap between the streets and my art, and I chose my art over the streets.
Fusion: What would you say about your interactions with the police growing up in Baltimore?
Devin Allen: (Exhales.) Well, I have been subjected to racial profiling. You know, I have had friends beaten by police. I have had police plant drugs on me because they’ve been mad that they didn’t find any.