Devin Allen plans to get the word “smile” tattooed on his trigger finger. It will be a nod to his West Baltimore ’hood — where more friends and peers than he can count on all his fingers have died in gun violence. It will also be a wink to his craft, the one he uses to capture this city, his “beautiful ghetto,” in powerful black-and-white photos that have made him a surprise media sensation.
In late April, the then-26-year-old shot his Fuji X-T1 over and over again as demonstrators took to the streets to protest the death of Freddie Gray, who suffered a fatal injury in police custody. Marching alongside the protesters, Allen snapped portrait after portrait that offered a view from the front lines in the days after Gray’s death. Using the WiFi on his camera, he uploaded dozens of his raw photos onto Instagram and Twitter, sharing them with his several thousand followers in real time. Soon enough, Rihanna and rapper King Los reposted a few of his snaps.