A Beautiful Ghetto – Devin Allen

Published by Haymarket Books and designed by Eric Kerl, A Beautiful Ghetto is a photography book by Devin Allen, with the poems by Tariq Touré.

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The first twenty-one pages are stories written by people close to Devin, like his mother or writers, who also talk about what happened to Freddie Gray in Baltimore, the Afro-american guy who was severly injured by the police and who died because of the injuries.

Dwight Watkins, who once was a drug dealer, but then he decided to gain back his life and he is now a writer, D. Watkins, and he published his memoir The Cook Up: A Crack Rock Memoir. Watkins met Devin in 2012, before becoming a New York Times best-seller, in a bar after drinking some shots. They bonded immediatly because both of them come from Baltimore, even though from different sides of the city. No one knows where you will find friendship.

Our friendship was birthed that night. […] No one – and I mean no one – captured nature, beauty, and life like Devin. He should never be referred to as an overnight success story […].

Even the author of From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation and professor of African American studies at Princeton University, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor decribes Devin Allen’s work as an eye on the true life in Baltimore’s community, through his camera and his sensitivity. “He gives a deeper meaning to the movement slogan Black Lives Matter”.

All rights – Time Magazine – Photo: Devin Allen
From the barbershop to the corner to the introspection captured on the faces of the neighbourhood youth, Allen’s camera brings his unique portaiture to life and contributes a perspective on the Baltimore Uprising that has been rendered nowhere else.

Wes Moore, CEO of Robin Hood, founder of BridgeEdU, and bestselling author of The Other Wes Moore and The Work, is a close friend of Devin and praises his work not because of their friendship but because it helps people understand what actually happened behind the death of Freddie Gray and how is life on the streets of Baltimore. Devin’s work is a celebration of black culture and communities, not only from Baltimore but from all over the world.

See Devin’s work and understand its impact and the souls on both sides of the lens.

Aaron Bryant, Curator of Photography and Visual Culture at the National Museum of African American History and Culture at the Smithsonian Institute, defines Devin Allen as a social critic, and his works help see how black communities live and how little things have changed since Martin Luther King’s speech.

While raising questions regarding the extent to which conditions have changed since the 1960s, Devin Allen offers a cultural critique that forces us to face certain sociopolitical realities.

The last story is from Allen’s mother, Gail Allen-Kearney, who speaks about the transformations inside Baltimore’s community with a lively language that resembles the fluidity of speaking language.

My son, my daughter (I’m married to her dad), and now my granddaughter […] are going to understand the good, the bad, and, most of all, the beauty, love, and peace that we have – that our people have and deserve.

After these stories, there is a little written contribution from Devin, who explains the words ghetto and uprising connected to his reality. Then the book starts with the photographic part.

 

A Beautiful Ghetto is the first part of photos that takes the reader and viewer on a journey through the streets and lives of Black people living in Baltimore. There are street photos, portraits, details and landscapes, that behave as a giant eye looking around and observing every little thing that happens around it. It is all about the people and the beauty of humanity.

Uprising is the second part and the photos here are all focused on the revolution on the streets of Baltimore. The iconic picture that made Devin famous and that is the cover of this book, spreads on two pages and shows in all its majestic importance. Maybe not for a reader outside the Black culture, but it still remains an iconic photo. There are portraits of cops and Black people, street photos and detailed pictures. The last photo is significant for the narrative of the book: a guy touching and sitting in front of a graffiti dedicated to Freddie Gray.

This book is a visual story of the uprising. It’s also the story of Baltimore, Freddie Gray, and so many countless others who grow up, work, raise their families in places like Baltimore. This book is to challenge the stigma, to show the beautiful side of the ghetto, and hopefully to inspire others to love, respect, and invest in our communities. This book is for you. 
Devin Allen

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