As I type this, Baltimore, Maryland is on lock down. After the suspicious death of Freddie Gray in police custody, and the ensuing civil unrest and rioting, photojournalists have been flocking to the scene. But it is the work of a young local, a so-called 'amateur', whose work has garnered international attention. If there is one thing that is a clear positive about the situation of Baltimore right now, it is that the democratization of photography has given rise to the likes of photographers like Devin Allen.
Congratualtions to Devin Allen, the photographer in this article, who just landed the cover of TIME magazine
Devin Allen’s world must be spinning. Firstly, as a result of the extremely serious, desperate, and negative situation going on right now in his home town of Baltimore, Maryland, but also because his work and coverage of unfolding events has helped tell his story around the globe, and possibly helped position him for an entirely new career path that otherwise may have been shut off.
Devin, who lives approximately 5 minutes from the epicenter of the protests, knew he was going to cover the activity, shooting with his camera and then uploading to Instagram instantly via wifi, while continuing to shoot and cover the events.
“But I never thought it would get this big. My city kind of has a bad rap, but I thought if we can come together peacefully, it [would] be epic for this city, and it was my goal to capture that.”
Although the protests started peacefully, things soon descended into violence as frustration, anger and volatility took hold. Devin was not surprised, but his intentions of why he was there were clear from the outset:
“I went in thinking I would show the good, the bad and the ugly. Of course, since I’m a black man, I understand the frustration, but at the same time, I’m a photographer. I’m not going to lie to you. I’m going to tell you exactly what happened. That was the goal.”
Things really took an interesting turn for him when Rihanna shared one of his images of a black police officer in riot gear, to her 17+ million followers on Instagram. Devin has been left reeling from the attention.
“I’m still in awe of it all”
The most widely shared image was one of a protestor being composed so it looks like he is a solitary figure being charged by dozens of police. Allen mentioned how he captured the moment:
“When I shot that, I thought it was a good picture, so I uploaded [from my camera] to my phone,” he says. “By the time I’d done that, the police was all around me. I was in the middle of it.”
With everything that’s going on in Baltimore, from the intitial death of Freddie Gray, to the protests, civil unrest and resulting (often polarizing) media coverage, it is refreshing to see what someone who has grown up there is seeing and how that photographer is reporting his particular vision.
It also demonstrates the exponential power of social media and how it’s helped put Devin on the map.
Whether this turns out to a fleeting moment of recognition, or the start of a beautiful lifel ong career, it is a definite silver lining and sliver of positivity in amongst a situation that is currently filled with despair and negativity, and that alone is worthy of celebration.
All images courtesy of / thanks to: Devin Allen