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Expanding The Walls

Prosperity of Perspective

  • Expanding the Walls participants shooting in Harlem with Devin Allen

    Photo: SaVonne Anderson

This month, Expanding the Walls (ETW)—an eight-month photography-based program at the Studio Museum—participants had the opportunity to work with Baltimore-based photographer Devin Allen.

Devin Allen’s most recognizable work, the series "A Beautiful Ghetto" (2015)—documenting the Baltimore uprising following the death of Freddie Gray—demonstrates how an image can have the power to unify a community and promote social justice. After presenting his work at the Museum and discussing the impact that his community has had on his life, ETW participants had the chance to walk the streets of Harlem and take photos with Allen.

It was extremely cold the day we went out to photograph. Everyone was shivering, but excitement kept us from completely freezing. We would occasionally huddle and then disperse when something caught our attention. We took photos of buildings, local business owners, random objects found on the floor or floating in the sky, and of each other—cumulatively documenting everyday life. It was nice to walk around with people who have different perspectives because everyone had the chance to point out things that were not noticeable to all of us upon first inspection.

Devin taught me different ways to take photos of people and I expect to apply this knowledge to my future work. It was truly amazing to be able to spend time with such a candid, humble person. It is definitely empowering to know that those who persist are successful. Another ETW participant, Adamaris, said, "His inspirational words motivated me to pursue whatever dream I want, no matter where I come from." Devin's prosperity is an homage to hard work and passion. I hope he can visit the museum again in the future.

— Ashley, Expanding the Walls '17

My name is Ashley and I was born and raised in Queens, New York. I enjoy spending time with friends, traveling and discovering new adventures. I aim to use photography as a platform for documenting stories about marginalized groups, particularly the Hispanic community.

Watch Devin Allen talk with teens at the Studio Museum in ArtLooks: The Power of an Image.