Photographers among us: Khalik Allah and the True Harlem

Each person is its own world of experiences. These worlds seem secretly protected, locked away in some unreachable realm. But they are all around us. Often, in plain view and yet, we shy away from peeking too much. Our curiosity may seem inappropriate.

The goal of street portraiture is to dive in head first. Reach into its inside and yank it out. Reveal it.

And that is just what Khalik Allah does. Close, intimate, honest, empathetic. This young photographer has been photographing the streets of Harlem for the last few years obtaining stunning images of what appears to be a rather rough life at the corner of 125th and Lexington Ave.

© Khalik Allah

© Khalik Allah

His dark grungy photographs show a world few of us dare to enter. They show a crude reality from a very dignified perspective. The connection to his subjects is obvious. They want him there. They connect to him. And their portraits, connect to you. If you missed it, look deep into their eyes.

“I’ll tell a person that I stop in the street to think about something that they went through in their life that was difficult and project that through their eyes”

— Khalik Allah in an interview for Time's Lightbox

© Khalik Allah

© Khalik Allah

He is currently traveling and screening his documentary film “Field Niggas and Antonyms of Beauty” which gives an even deeper insight into his subjects and work. I personally hope he continues to give me access to his world. He has managed to show me some of the true humans of New York that many shy away from.

The next screenings in the US will be at NYU, Quinnipiac University, Sarasota Film Festival, Maryland Film Festival and further on to France. 

For more, check out his Tumblr site or follow him on Facebook.

The Artist's Struggle

Artists struggle with many issues, often relating to self-confidence and lack of recognition from society. Their production is not quantifiable or even appreciated by most until they receive social recognition or a proper financial assessment. This leaves most of society puzzled to understand the artist's production, path or even ranking in the social hierarchy. They do not know how to value, judge or even treat those they cannot fit into a frame of reference. Most people use financial conditions, social standing or physical appearance as reference to how they will treat others. In many fields, the most creative people often sit outside those elements as they often disregard financial matters, self-sabotage social status and consider concern for physical appearance to be vanity.

                                       Native Income, 2013 - Rodrigo Llauro 

Yet, they do rely heavily on their audience. Most art is made to be seen. To be heard. It is in the public that the artist can feel that the existence of their work is being appreciated and that there is a purpose to it. Paradoxically, many hate most being the center of attention or becoming victims of insincere social praise.

So how should they deal with this? Creative minds need to remember that their art, is an impulse, a need, a calling, the goal itself. The true artist started on their journey because of catharsis or love for their craft. An emotional drive to create without a guaranteed reward. They need to remember those beautiful early naïve days. The days in which they were not plagued by self-doubt and pressure from their surroundings.

As the artist perfects their skill, craft and style, they begin to enter a period in which their art needs to have a purpose, a reason for being. This is when tough decisions must be made. What is the goal? Financial Success? Social Recognition? Social Awareness? Political Change? Self-indulgence?

I often wonder what I would do if I didn't take photographs, write music or played around with every medium I can get my hands on. My drive is curiosity and an attempt to understand myself and the world around me. I cannot stop creating, as it just happens. 

The audience is not the drive, it is simply very important encouragement. I must be constantly reminded of this. Giving the audience such importance might cause it to take the helm and steer the meaning or message behind my work.

The artist needs to continue on their path. Continue on their mission. See it out. Dig deep inside to those days when nothing and no one could affect their vision. Of course this is a generalization, but I do hope some people out there take a moment to be true to themselves and see if they relate to these observations.

Hopefully they will see that achieving healthy confidence in their work while avoiding an inflated ego is essential for growing as a person and as an artist.

#Closetochuck at Australia’s Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney

Chuck Close: Prints, Process and Collaboration at the MCA in Syndey

Chuck Close: Prints, Process and Collaboration at the MCA in Syndey

This exhibition is all about process. It is all about creation, construction and deconstruction. High resolution. Technical feats. Visual tricks performed by a skilful magician. Yet, a magician who for fame and recognition chooses to break the golden rule: Never reveal your tricks.

You enter the gallery and Lou Reed stares at you. Giants like these will continue to stare at you, appropriately represented by prints of colossal proportions. Kate Moss might even look at you innocently from a velvety rug. Yet, suddenly and without a warning the curtains may come down. Unveil the magic, discover the excruciating meticulous steps behind each final image. Each thread woven in perfect harmony with the next as to recreate the gradients and tones from his astonishing daguerrotype portraits. Each wooden block carved specifically for each tone and color necessary to create the final psychedelic mosaic print.

Then again, why shouldn’t he reveal his tricks? He chooses the most complex and technically challenging mediums to create works that cannot be anything but unique. They are proof of his patience, intelligence and, most of all, devotion. I recommend you take a minute to visit the exhibition’s site to get a little behind the scenes ( However, this is an experience you can only have in person. You cannot squeeze daguerrotype tapestry prints into the compressed pixels of a jpg.