THE NEW YORKER
January 18, 2018 - Richard Brody
A Filmmaker and Photographer’s Urgent, Personal Portraits of Harlem at Night
These images—of people, mainly black people, many of whom endure drug addiction, physical infirmities, poverty, homelessness, and harassment from the police—have an essential documentary urgency. They also have a spiritual essence, an element of passion and grace that’s revealed by Allah’s compositional grandeur and textural intimacy—but these revelations of style arise from his own experience, which he also details in the book, in an extraordinary personal essay, “Camera Ministry.” In the essay, Allah—who has an exhibition opening at New York’s Gitterman Gallery, in March—discusses his first enthusiasm for filmmaking, in the late nineteen-nineties, as a teen-ager from Long Island, at the same time that he began to frequent Harlem, to study the work of the Five Percent Nation, and to become friends with members of the Wu-Tang Clan. He discusses the happenstance of his sudden interest in photography at a time, in his early twenties, when he had put his filmmaking on hold. It’s a story that involves his family, but, above all, it involves his relationships with the people whom he photographs, as well as with other people whom he encountered on the street.