Street Opera: The Photographs and Films of Khalik Allah
It is easy to walk through a city not making eye contact, but for Khalik Allah this contact is essential. He sees each individual he photographs. And his photographs in turn allow us to see them, to acknowledge who we might ignore, to look through Allah’s eye and into theirs, and to recognize them as individuals. This is the power of Allah’s work: to give us a deeper sense of people as people, to share and enlighten, even when the message may not be clean or easy.
Made at night on 125th Street and Lexington Avenue in Harlem, the images in this series provide a glimpse into a world and people that many choose to ignore. His subjects are often drug addicts, homeless, or both. Using only the available light from shop windows, street lights, or subway platforms, he photographs them with a slow color film, a combination that produces images full of grain and texture, a visual shorthand for the roughness and intensity of life on the street, and his own struggles early in life. The light is also often harsh or even surreal, resulting in figures awash in blues and reds.
While the people he photographs on the corner of 125th and Lexington Avenue in Harlem have been his central inspiration, his work also extends to documentary film with several powerful shorts, Field Niggas, Urban Rashomon, Antonyms of Beauty, and his recent feature, Black Mother.