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Healing Through Creative Expression

Devin Allen is Changing the Baltimore Narrative One Photograph at a Time

Alisa Hyman | 3/23/2018, 6 a.m.
On Thursday, March 15, 2018, the Institute for Integrative Health in conjunction with the Gordon Parks Foundation opened the exhibit ...
On Thursday, March 15, 2018, the Institute for Integrative Health in conjunction with the Gordon Parks Foundation opened the exhibit “A Beautiful Ghetto, Three Years Later: A Conversation about Healing,” featuring the photography of Baltimore native and award-winning photojournalist Devin Allen, who chronicled the uprising after Freddie Gray’s death. Allen is pictured explaining where he was and what was happening when he took this photograph. He said he climbed up on a light post in order to get this shot of BCPD officers in their riot gear." Alisa Hyman

On Thursday, March 15, 2018, the Institute for Integrative Health, in conjunction with the Gordon Parks Foundation opened “A Beautiful Ghetto, Three Years Later: A Conversation about Healing,” an exhibit featuring the photography of Baltimore native and award- winning photojournalist Devin Allen, who chronicled the uprising that followed Freddie Gray’s death.

Through the 10-week program series, Allen and the Institute intend to use the interactive art installations to spark the discussion and action necessary in the healing of the community of Baltimore.

Devin Allen was born and raised in West Baltimore. He gained national attention when one of the photographs he took during the uprising was featured on the May 2015 cover of Time Magazine— only the third time the work of an amateur photographer has ever on the magazine cover.

Allen’s photographs have also appeared in New York Magazine, the Washington Post, the New York Times, and Aperture.

“I wanted to capture the intense moments that happened during the uprising that most media outlets weren’t showing,” Allen said. “I wanted to give people a real idea of what happened during the uprising- show them how the residents of Baltimore came together and supported each other and celebrated life even in the shadow of tragedy.”

Even after the uprising, Allen has remained deeply committed to showing the beauty of Baltimore and the life and love that thrives in its communities. He has turned his attention to the youth of Baltimore with his “Through Their Eyes” project, designed to spread love and hope through art. He puts cameras in the hands of Baltimore youth, and they in turn, tell their own stories through their photography.

“I knew that the way to change how people viewed Baltimore was to change the Baltimore narrative. Photography changes the narrative. Photography is one way we combat real-life issues with art,” Allen said. “This is how we show who we are to the world outside this city.”

Through crowd-sourced fundraising and donations from sponsors, Allen provides students with cameras, donates his time hosting youth photography workshops, and creates exhibits to display their work. To date, Allen has given away 198 cameras to youth centers across the country.

“Photography helps kids to digest the world in a real and meaningful way. It also provides a way for them to show their world to everyone else,” Allen said reflectively. “I wanted to inspire kids to tell their own stories, so I solicited the help of community to help me. I put on a show and the community came out in droves to support me. Art unifies people.”

Allen has taught film and photography all over the country.

He published a collection of his work, A Beautiful Ghetto, a book that proclaims and highlights Baltimore’s beauty and resilience through photography and was nominated in 2017 for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work by a Debut Author. Allen was the recipient of the 2017 Gordon Parks Foundation Fellowship, an honor only magnified by Allen’s immense appreciation and admiration for Gordon Parks and his life’s work.

The Institute for Integrative Health, a Baltimore based non-profit organization, has taken an interest in Allen’s work because of his commitment to the healing of communities through the decompression and discussion spawned by his photography. The Institute’s focus is on the social and environmental factors surrounding health and the various ways of helping people heal through art, nature, and other creative means.

When asked why he was so passionate about photography at the opening of “A Beautiful Ghetto, Three Years Later: A Conversation about Healing,” exhibit featuring his photography, West Baltimore native Devin Allen responded, "History is written by those who document it. I am telling our story."

When asked why he was so passionate about photography at the opening of “A Beautiful Ghetto, Three Years Later: A Conversation about Healing,” exhibit featuring his photography, West Baltimore native Devin Allen responded, "History is written by those who document it. I am telling our story."

In addition to Allen’s photography, which will be on display until May 24, a series of workshops and creative demonstrations will be offered at the Institute focused on Working to Heal Baltimore (April 12 at 6:30 p.m.); Healing through Creative Expression (April 13 and 6:30 p.m.); and Healing through Human Connection: Exercising the Mind, Body, and Soul (April 14 at 11 a.m.)

Brian Berman, president of the Institute for Integrated Health, is excited about the exhibit and the healing and discussion that will occur as a result. “We are all about finding ways to heal people. Devin is healing an entire community through his work. We wanted to celebrate his accomplishments and give the community the tools they need to find their own creative voices.”

For more information about the program series, visit http://bit.ly/HealingBaltimore. Follow him on Instagram: @bydvnlln