Spotlight

Feature Photographer and filmmaker Khalik Allah

Championed by Nicolas Smirnoff
The Wick - Khalik Allah
Above  Khalik Allah
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The Wick - Self portrait of Khalik Allah (2018)
Above  Self portrait of Khalik Allah (2018)
Interview
Khalik Allah
Photography
Khalik Allah and Magnum Photos
10 November 2021
Interview
Khalik Allah
Photography
Khalik Allah and Magnum Photos
10 November 2021
It’s an exciting time for Magnum Photos and its gallery director, Nicolas Smirnoff, as the gallery expands its footprint in Paris. With the help of London-based interior designers Johnson Naylor, they’ve transformed a 19th-century industrial building in the 11th arrondissement into a major new gallery space to join their existing Clerkenwell gallery in London.
For its inaugural exhibition in Paris, Magnum Photos has brought together two chroniclers of Harlem – New York photographer Bruce Davidson and fellow New Yorker and 2020 Magnum nominee member Khalik Allah. Nicolas Smirnoff shares why. He says: “Allah cites Bruce Davidson as one of his major influences and specifically focused his lens on the Black community frequenting the corner of 125th Street and Lexington Avenue. Beginning in 2012, Allah would return to this corner, shooting only at night.”

This corner served as the basis for Allah’s first photography book, Souls Against the Concrete, published by University of Texas Press in 2017. Exploring themes of redemption and resilience amid addiction, poverty and street life, his work is celebrated for its beautifully visceral humanity.

Smirnoff adds: “Allah’s striking work is characterised by a remarkable degree of directness and proximity with his subjects. There is neither judgment nor sentimentalism. These works do not impose any moralist vision; on the contrary, they convey honest empathy and rely on genuine immersion, placing the author on the side of his subjects.

“Allah offers a testimony of his time, places and moments in New York. If the beautiful photographs show the mutations and changes experienced by the city over time, it also attests to the immutability of many things, the city’s energy and, notably, the precarity experienced by communities of the city. Above all, these works are an ode to New York: the quintessential ‘melting pot’, a city in whose history and posterity the grains of possibility are engraved.”

In addition to exhibiting at Magnum Photos’ new space (‘Bruce Davidson and Khalik Allah: New York’ will run until 18 December in Paris), Allah is also currently working on another photo book from 125th and Lexington.

He says: “Having a show with photographer Bruce Davidson is something I never imagined happening, but it’s a huge achievement. I’m currently working on my second photo book. I’m still in the streets shooting. I’m building towards developing new styles, approaches and techniques. I recently did a film project with Solange Knowles and I worked on a music video with Nas. I don’t make too many plans for myself, but I feel like I’m being guided towards realising my vision.”

About the champion

The Wick - Feature Photographer and filmmaker Khalik Allah

Prior to joining Magnum Photos in London, Nicolas Smirnoff served a number of prestigious cultural organisations and galleries including Christie’s and Pace Gallery. He joined the latter in 2012, orchestrating the grand opening and inaugural exhibition of the 6 Burlington Gardens space. In addition to being a regular speaker at Christie’s and Sotheby’s, he’s on the board of trustees of Art Night, a free contemporary arts festival that transforms locations around London for one night a year.

“Allah’s striking work is characterised by a remarkable degree of directness and proximity with his subjects.”

Place of Birth

Brookhaven, New York

Education

High school and some college


Awards, Accolades

Getty Images’ Creatives in Quarantine photography award, a residency at Light Work and numerous awards for film works.

Current exhibitions

‘Bruce Davidson and Khalik Allah: New York’ at Magnum Photo’s new gallery space in Paris until 18 December 2021.


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