Baltimore Uprising Photographer, Devin Allen: Where Art Meets Activism

by Stephanie Fields
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Art and activism have always been intimately linked. Art not only preserves the voice(s) of the activist, but lends ethos to the cries of the marginally silenced.

Diego Rivera’s murals fleshed the Mexican Revolution, Gordon Parks photographs captured the Civil Rights movement, Emory Douglas illustrations animated the Black Power movement.  Art holds up a mirror to society reflecting the heart of the times. So when 2015 found Black Americans facing a marathon of police-sanctioned-violence, outrage spilled from our hearts and flooded the streets in nonviolent protests and aggressive revolts.

From Chicago to Cleveland to Ferguson to Baltimore, grief surmounted into a call of action professing that Black lives matter. Popular news media showed the burning buildings and police stand-offs, but one photographer, following in the footsteps of the artists before him, captured images that spoke to the reality of the Baltimore Uprisings.

Devin Allen is a photographer from West Baltimore whose work rose to fame when his iconic photo was printed on the cover of Time magazine. 
The cover shows a young black man in a ball cap with a scarf tied around his mouth as he runs from an army of SWAT police chasing him. It was the perfect illustration of what life was, and is, for black Americans, under siege by a government commissioned, with our tax dollars, to serve and protect us. It not only captured a moment, a movement, but Allen soon captured the attention of the media.

The New York Times called his work vibrant
 Shannon Houston, of Paste magazine, called his work iconic
The Washington Post called him a mash-up of wide-eyed novice and real talent 
Blavity called him raw and honest

“Baltimore city is like a bucket of crabs, it’s hard to get out of here, you have to face so many obstacles. You have to face your own peers, the police.” 

Allen’s work has help to reshape the larger conversation going on about how to make a lasting impact his city of Baltimore. Allen's has worked to inspire youth by supplying cameras to children in Baltimore. 

Make sure to check out Devin Allen's Instagram series, #ABeautifulGhetto.

(photos take from Instagram)

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