Devin Allen, the West Baltimore photographer whose photo of the unrest over the death of Freddie Gray ran on the front of Time magazine, is back on the cover, five years later.
The headline, “The Overdue Awakening," refers to the worldwide protests over the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and other black people killed by police in the U.S. Baltimore saw similar protests in 2015 after Gray died from injuries suffered in police custody.
Allen, 32, said the significance of a Black Trans Lives Matter protest gracing the cover of the national magazine isn’t lost on him. He said he told the editor who offered him the cover to make sure the demonstration was properly identified as such in the caption.
"We leave out the LGBT community, especially when it comes to the black trans community,” he said in a phone interview Thursday. “The fact that they even have to go and hold a Black Trans Lives Matter march, it speaks for itself. Why do they have to do that? As a straight, black man, I’m going to give the same energy that I give to all my people to that community.”
In a tweet, Allen dedicated the cover: “For my people."
Allen’s first Time cover, in May 2015, brought him widespread acclaim. He published his first photography book, “A Beautiful Ghetto,” in 2017, and landed a contract with Under Armour that has taken him to China for photo shoots with NBA All-Star Steph Curry.
As renewed Black Lives Matter demonstrations spread internationally following Floyd’s death last month, Allen has been posting his photos of the protests in Baltimore on his Instagram feed.
He said he doesn’t go out “on assignment” for publications or work as a freelancer, because he wants to ensure his photos aren’t published alongside articles with which he disagrees. Allen agreed to allow Time to run the Black Trans Lives Matter protest photo, he said, only after speaking with the reporter about the accompanying story.
“You can’t hire me,” Allen said. “I have a moral compass. Most of my work that gets published, I’ve already posted it on Instagram. ... I do this stuff because this is what I do. This is my life’s work. I was shooting for myself because that’s what I believe in.”
Through the civil unrest in Baltimore over the past five years, Allen said, “as a photographer, I’ve been there on the front lines.”
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“The work that I do is to give voice to my community, any black person,” he said. “I just try to make the work so people can be seen and be heard. ... Once the smoke is done, the fire is done, the protests are done, the real work really begins.”