S2 E5: DEVIN ALLEN – PHOTOGRAPHER & ACTIVIST
Devin Allen initially fell in love with photography because of the energy and human interaction it brought to the table, but the fact that being a photographer makes you a “history teller” may have sealed the deal. As both artist and documentarian, Devin gets to experience life and capture it to enlighten and inspire future generations.
After his photography was featured on the cover of TIME in 2015, the opportunities and acclaim came flooding straight at Devin. He had to both BE the expert and also learn to be the expert at the same time. He was meeting and shooting famous people after he had made his name shooting real life. As a growing artist, he began to understand that confidence and belief were just as important as technical expertise. He studied his subjects, his art form, and many other art forms to continue his self-education and expand his abilities.
As a student of the art form, Devin himself has been inspired by photographers from every genre, but especially his idol Gordon Parks. Parks was able to excel in areas as diverse as photojournalism and fashion, along with music, writing, and directing. While Devin has been honing his photography skills over the past several years, he’s also been exploring different mediums, like art installations and even performance art.
Devin’s story is unique and compelling for up-and-coming artists and established creatives alike. Curiosity, drive, ambition, and giving back have combined to make Devin an artist and voice to follow. Here are his Three Big How’s:
THREE BIG HOW’S
DON’T GET CAUGHT UP IN “LIKES”
The new generation is hungry for Likes and Followers, and that’s trickling down (or up) to other generations more and more. Devin recommends that you forget about that. You’re abilities, your ideas, and your art shouldn’t be judged by your social following. Create from the heart, believe in yourself, and don’t forget: there are algorithms being created by social platforms to drive reactions, and there are many people out there who are buying “likes.” Don’t fall into that trap of creating your own worth based on what it says on your screen.
IT’S NEVER TOO LATE
Devin didn’t find photography until he was an adult. He had no training as a young man, and he didn’t even know photography was a profession. Then, everything changed. He began shooting events on his phone, graduated to a camera, and the rest is history. His advice—which is based on real life—is that it’s never too late…to start something new, to create your own project, to learn a new craft or career, to rebrand yourself, to basically do anything. He is living proof.
First and foremost, learn the history and evolution of your own art form. Consume as much as you can so that you expand your knowledge and your imagination. Then, or in parallel, study other art forms. For example, Devin has learned a lot from researching painters—how they frame their imagery, use color, etc. This has helped Devin refine and retrain his own eye, ultimately making him a better photographer and artist.
BONUS: DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP
Devin has had several mentors. He’s proud of talking about people who have helped him on his journey. Many people out there are shy, afraid, or embarrassed to ask for help. Devin has not only found it critical to his growth, but he’s also found that people want to help. Get out there, meet people, and ask them their advice!
Devin’s talent is only surpassed by his hunger for learning and evolving. His background is inspiring, but what he’s doing to create his own future and a better future for others is even more inspiring. You will learn A LOT from this episode, and by the end you’ll also feel like you too can do anything!