A Beautiful Ghetto

A visual story by Devin Allen about Freddie Gray's Baltimore and the rise of the New Activist


Fields of Knowledge
  • Aesthetics / Media
  • Comm. Development
  • Memory
  • Politics / Economics
  • Public culture
  • Social Justice

Organizing Institutions



Aaron Levy, Eduardo Cadava


Anastasia Colzie


Andy Warhol Foundation and Kaja Silverman/Mellon Foundation at the University of Pennsylvania

Process initiated


Opens to public





4017 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104

On the web



50% Formal - 50% Informal

Slought is pleased to announce "A Beautiful Ghetto," a visual story by Devin Allen about Freddie Gray's Baltimore and the rise of the New Activist, on display in our galleries from January 29-March 4, 2016. The project aspires to create an inclusive forum for conversation about the recent uprising in Baltimore and the struggle for social justice. It also highlights the power of both photography and protest to change our perspectives of the cities we live in.

The title of this project challenges negative representations of the ghetto by asserting the beauty of the culture and communities of Baltimore's inner city neighborhoods. It leads us to consider our own perceptions of the ghetto, and what this word calls to mind for each of us. The project also seeks to create a conversation that extends from Baltimore to sister cities such as Philadelphia, and asks us to reflect on where we would position ourselves were an uprising to happen here. Would you be on the front lines of the protest, or would you take to social media? Would you stay home and watch the news? Would you pray? Would you talk behind closed doors, or not at all?

The project also explores Allen's personal transformation in April 2015 following the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray while in police custody. Allen shifts from concerned citizen to photo-activist, and forms his own media platform through Instagram and Twitter to share his perspective on the events unfolding in Baltimore. An inspiration for this transformation is the enduring legacy of Gordon Parks as well as mentor Robert Houston, photographers who decades earlier documented and defined the civil rights movement of the 20th century in America.

As series of public programs will accompany the project, including an opening reception on Friday, January 29, 2016 from 6:30-8:30pm, which will include reports by activists and concerned citizens from Baltimore (Devin Allen, Kwame Rose, and Michael Wood) and Philadelphia (Megan Malachi/Philly Coalition for REAL Justice), and will be moderated by scholar and activist Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor. Please also join us on Thursday, February 18, 2016 from 6:30-8:30pm for a conversation with Devin Allen and Patricia Fernandez-Kelly about Baltimore and how photography can challenge our visual and psychological perceptions of the ghetto.

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Devin Allen (1988-) is a widely acclaimed photographer and activist from West Baltimore best known for his commanding photographs of the Baltimore uprising.

Shared through his personal Instagram account, the photographs went viral and were featured on the cover of TIME. He recently had his first solo exhibition at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum in Baltimore, and his work is in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution.

Allen also organizes "Inspire the Youth," a youth photography program at the Kids Safe Zone in the Penn-North neighborhood of West Baltimore. He regularly engages inner city youth in schools, museums and other settings.

Join this Story

Devin Allen posts his photos openly, and everyone is free to view and share them.

Are you a cultural institution or media organization interested in spreading awareness of Allen's work?

We are seeking partners to host this project in their institution or on their website. To participate, contact us to receive an exhibition kit and with questions.

"And now it is your turn,
We are tired of praying, and marching, and thinking, and learning
Brothers wanna start cutting, and shooting, and stealing, and burning
You are three hundred years ahead in equality
But next summer may be too late
To look back"

-- Gil Scott-Heron, Evolution (And Flashback), from "Small Talk At 125th And Lenox" (1970)