Khalik Allah (b.1985) is a New York-based photographer and filmmaker whose work has been described as “street opera” simultaneously visceral, hauntingly beautiful and penetrative. From Khalik’s perspective, the streets of New York City and beyond are explored through characters and intimate portraiture to reveal deeper truths. Khalik’s passion for photography and visual storytelling was sparked when he began photographing members of the Wu-Tang Clan with a camera he borrowed from his dad. Real and raw, his profoundly personal work goes beyond street photography.
His eye for daring portraiture and bold aesthetics takes us into an entire world.
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 the award-winning “Field Niggas”, a chronicle of summer of nights spent at the intersection of 125th Street and Lexington Avenue. The film takes its name from Malcolm X’s famous lecture, “Message to the Grassroots.”
Khalik’s intimate documentary portraits all very clearly remind us of what photography is, what photography needs: light. The photographs are all taken in New York City, in Harlem, on Lexington Avenue, around 125th Street. They’re taken at night, using a film camera without a flash, substituting street lights and storefront glow. Rich color, and darkness frames the nocturnal urban landscape with intimacy and empathy. In order to capture these photos he directs his close attention to how light and character narrative works in the nighttime. A self-taught photographer, Khalik’s work has garnered the attention of The New York Times, Vice, New Yorker and The Guardian, among others.
Khalik Allah describes his practice: it “is bringing light without a flash. Entering dark spaces of the mind and looking at them. That’s the only way a problem can be resolved: by looking at it. Not looking is how problems are preserved.” The most striking sort of urban portraiture.
Khalik shoots with a manual, analogue film camera, as photography and filmmaking form a venn diagram in his work. His work has been exhibited internationally, including Baltimore Museum of Art, The Institute of Contemporary Arts, AFI Los Angeles, London and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, where he was named YBCA 100 influencing the future of American culture. His films have been awarded the New Yorker best of 2015, the Pulse Brit Genesis award, RIDM Montreal, Best International medium-length Film and Le Prix Scribe, Paris.
Khalik will screen his film Field Niggas and discuss his work at SPACE on Saturday, May 7th at 7:00pm.