Getting to Know Photographer Devin Allen

The Baltimore Sun has an interview with 27 year-old Baltimore photographer Devin Allen. One of the pictures Devin took during the Baltimore unrest covered Time Magazine’s May 11, 2015 issue.

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In the interview he talks about how photography saved his life twice.

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Devin Allen says that photography saved his life — two nights in a row.

Allen is the rookie photographer whose visceral and poignant images of the Freddie Gray uprising landed him on the cover of Time magazine.

But in 2013, he wasn’t famous yet. He’d just recently picked up a camera for the first time and was in the grips of a new passion.

Instead of hanging out with his best friends as he would on a normal Friday, Allen says, he was in his kitchen at 8 p.m on Feb. 1, 2013, editing photographs. As a result, he wasn’t in the 100 block of N. Bentalou St. when Derrick Lee was shot and killed while sitting on his front steps.

The following night, Allen went to a photography assignment in Station North instead of to a party with his lifelong friend Christopher Samuels. Samuels took a fatal bullet to the back of his head at 1 a.m. Feb. 3 near Wheeler Avenue and Baltimore Street.

“I was devastated,” Allen says. “I trusted those guys with my life, and I think about them every day.”

As a close friend to both men, he had a concern that he might be next.

“The sad thing is that I wasn’t even scared,” he says. “I’m 27 years old, and I’ve buried at least 20 friends. I’m used to death. I’ve gotten to the point that I stopped going to funerals. I don’t even cry.”

He also talks about his upcoming solo show at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture.

An exhibit of 17 of his works — Allen’s first solo show — opens Friday at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture.

Paul Moakley, Time’s deputy director of photography, described Allen’s photo of a man running down the street in front of a line of baton-wielding Baltimore police officers as one of the powerful Time covers he’s worked on.

“That was the moment when the situation went from being a peaceful protest to riots breaking out,” he says, “and Devin captured it perfectly.”

But the Time cover isn’t Allen’s favorite photo from the unrest. It might be his close-up shot of an African-American police officer whose eyes are brimming with tears. Or possibly, it’s the touching portrait of a black protester coming to the aid of a white marcher who has just been maced.

“I want to unite people,” Allen says. “I try not to be close-minded but to understand every side of the story. My goal is to create a conversation with each image.”

According to the Baltimore Sun if you plan on attending his solo show which starts this Friday July 10:

“Devin Allen: Awakenings, In a New Light” runs Friday through Dec. 7 at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture, 830 E. Pratt St. Free. Call 443-263-1800 or go to lewismuseum.org.

Allen will participate in a public conversation about the uprising at 1 p.m. Saturday with activists Kwame Rose and Malacka Reed. Regular museum admission of $6-$8 applies.

Check out the entire interview at the Baltimore Sun and you can also check out Devin’s work on Instagram.

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