In 2015 I watched the events of Baltimore unfold after the death and burial of Freddie Gray through the lens of Devin Allen. His photography captured the bitter pain that sat at the core of the emotional protests against police brutality. Over the years I’ve watched his career flourish; he’s been in numerous shows, has been featured in magazines, and he has used his creative influence to create local charitable programs that expose photography to young kids. His hands on approach to community engagement is admirable and his photographic work has evolved into a style that’s reminiscent of Gordon Parks, Warhol and Roy DeCarava with a distinctive point of view that is entirely his own.
It was this picture that he posted today on Instagram that reminded me of one of the greats, Romare Bearden. This photo of boarded up row houses in Baltimore looks like Bearden’s collaged interpretation of Lenox Ave in Harlem. In The Block (1971), Bearden provides the viewer with a window into the rich, complex lives of a neighborhood in Harlem. Allen’s photography serves the same purpose; he provides us with a window into Baltimore’s triumphs and struggles through his subjects.
Devin Allen’s work is currently featured in the Studio Museum of Harlem’s aptly named group show, The Window and the Breaking of the Window on view through April 2, 2017. For more on Bearden’s classic work The Block, The MET museum has produced a fun, dynamic and interactive look into the work.