The amateur photographer capturing the story of the #BaltimoreRiots

  • 28 April 2015
x Image copyright Devin Allen / bydvnlln

An amateur photographer has been scooping the international media with his photographs from the front lines of protests and riots in Baltimore.

The death of a black man fatally injured in police custody has sparked both peaceful protests and violent riots in Baltimore. Twenty-five-year-old Freddie Gray died on 19 April - there's more about what we know of his case here. The disturbances prompted the governor of the state of Maryland to declare a state of emergency in the city. A week-long curfew has been announced and as many as 5,000 National Guard troops could be deployed.

Hashtags such as #BaltimoreRiots and #BlackLivesMatter trended this week, but one of the most-shared pictures wasn't taken by a local newspaper or by one of the legions of photojournalists based in Washington, just an hour away. Instead this photo by 26-year-old Baltimore native Devin Allen, has been retweeted more than 5,000 times:

Image copyright Devin Allen / Bydvnlln

Allen posts his photos on his Instagram and Twitter accounts - and many social media users were quick to point out the similarities between his mostly black-and-white snaps and photos of US civil rights demonstrations in the 1960s. He talked to BBC Trending about how he's working (without pay) to capture the dramatic story unfolding in his home city.

Image copyright Devin Allen / bydvnlln
Image caption 'The area where the protesters marched from is close to the area where I grew up,' Allen says. 'It's rough, but I picked a different route … for the last few years photography has been my passion.' Allen had a social media presence before the protests, but it's grown by thousands since his photos went viral - he now has around 20,000 Instagram followers. 'A lot of the people who are protesting don't have a same following that I do,' he says. 'As a native of Baltimore, I thought I had to step up to help.'
Image copyright Devin Allen / bydvnlln
Image caption 'My goal is to show my city, the good the bad and the ugly,' Allen says. 'I have some people saying, why are you showing the bad things? But it's my goal to show everything, only then will people really understand what's going on.'
Image copyright Devin Allen / bydvnlln
Image caption 'I'm for the protesters but against the rioters,' Allen says. Underneath this photo of a white protester he wrote: 'He stood on the front lines with us and got pepper sprayed....a brother saw his pain and came to his aid with milk ::::: Deeper than skin and if you stand with us your my brother and or sister idc [I don't care] what color you are'
Image copyright Devin Allen / bydvnlln
Image caption Allen says he’s been harassed by the police in the past, and even beaten up and shot with a stun gun. But despite this he says he has friends who are police officers: ‘Some of my friends, they became police and patrolled their neighbourhoods because of what they went through growing up, they wanted to make the police better.’ He says of the photo above: ‘This guy was tearing up … anyone who wants to make the city better by doing their job, I respect that.’
Image copyright Devin Allen / bydvnlln
Image caption Allen’s work is entirely independent – he says the local newspaper, the Baltimore Sun, has turned him down in the past. The above photo ended up on a national TV news report. ‘This is a photo of a man and his son at a peaceful protest. But the rest of the report was all about riots and violence.’
Image copyright Devin Allen / bydvnlln
Image caption Several photojournalists in Baltimore have been arrested by police or assaulted by protesters. Allen says: 'My mother called me, and said "Boy, why are you on the front lines like that?" I had to calm her down and tell her I'm okay. I know what I'm doing. I know that if I get the right shot at the right time, I can show people things they don't see on the news.'

Blog by Mike Wendling

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