How he became ‘The Eyes of Baltimore’

— Demonstrators marched through the streets of Baltimore, as they had for the past week. Devin Allen, then an amateur photographer, was among them.

Little did he know he was about to take a picture that would change his life and show the world what he was seeing in Baltimore.

On April 25, 2015, the crowd marched from Gilmor Homes in the Sandtown neighborhood where 25-year-old Freddie Gray had lived and had been arrested. He was put in a police van on April 12 and died of a spinal injury one week later.

They marched to Baltimore City Hall. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said most protesters were respectful but a “small group of agitators intervened.”

They marched through downtown toward the city’s famous baseball stadium, Camden Yards. When demonstrators got to the stadium, tensions escalated and some people threw what appeared to be water bottles and other objects at the police, who wore helmets and stood behind metal barricades.

Allen said he heard racial slurs yelled at protesters from baseball fans, which he believed sparked the violence that would follow.

“This is where I snapped the cover of Time magazine, this is where they destroyed the police cars … this is where everyone was completely boxed in by the police officers,” recalled Allen.

His blunt image from that day, of an African-American man running in front of a phalanx of police officers in riot gear, is one of only three photos by a nonprofessional photographer to ever grace the cover of the magazine. It went on to be chosen by the editors of Time as one of the top 10 magazine covers for 2015.

“It was a crazy day. It was the beginning, and this day changed my life,” Allen said.

That day also changed the way he perceives the world, the style of his work and inspired him to pursue photojournalism, he said.

“[It was] a spark. A new spark, a new light, a new set of eyes that my work has been directed through following this story. Not just the story of Freddie Gray, but the story of Baltimore also,” Allen said.

On April 25, Allen felt his calling stronger than ever. He said he could hardly believe so much was happening — the police, the crowds — and there he was, snapping photos. At one point in the chaos, Allen was nearly trampled underfoot, but he said a police officer helped him get up and out of the way.

Allen said he wanted to get his photos showing what was happening out to his community as soon as possible to “beat media to the punch,” so he uploaded them on social media.

Allen’s photography, posted to his Instagram and Twitter accounts, became a major news source for many in the Baltimore community.

“The next thing I know, the pictures just went viral, within an hour. I saw like a thousand retweets; everyone was reposting it,” he said.

‘I was going to capture every moment’

Allen grew up in Baltimore, not far from Gray. Allen described his hometown as a small city where family and neighborhood connections run deep.

“You know someone’s cousin, someone’s friend knows this friend. It’s a very small city. So when Freddie Gray passed, I didn’t know him personally but I know people that knew him,” he said.

Gray’s arrest was recorded by a bystander, and the video made its way to many in the community, including Allen, via group text, passed from one group of family, neighbors and friends to the next.

At that point, Allen said, knowing his community and its strained relationship with police, he sensed that something was going to happen. He grabbed his camera and started following the story.

“Being from Baltimore, I know the streets, I know people here. So I was going to capture every moment,” he said.

Allen documented everything he saw. Alongside journalists from major news organizations from around the world, like CNN, the hometown photographer didn’t back down.

“I don’t like zoom lenses. I don’t want to sit back across the street,” Allen said. “I want to be in the mix. I want to feel that energy, that rush.”

To Allen, many in Baltimore felt a rush, too. In the wake of racially charged clashes with police in protests across the country and the deaths of black men including Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Eric Garner, the death of Gray stirred a great emotion in Baltimore.

“People were starting to understand what was going on,” Allen said. “It hit home I think with Freddie Gray, it woke a lot of people up … that could have been anyone’s kid,” said Allen.

In the months since the marches and demonstrations, Allen is looking forward, both for Baltimore and in his own life.

“I just thought I was just taking good pictures and I just was like, well, I hope these pictures get into the right hands or the right people see it,” Allen said. “I never thought this would be born from that at all.”

Allen has spoken to community groups and sat on discussion panels on the struggles in Baltimore and about his photography. He’s been on CNN and featured in various news outlets from New York Magazine to The Washington Post. His work is currently exhibited at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum in Baltimore and another show is scheduled in Philadelphia for late January. A retrospective of Allen’s work was shown at acclaimed pop-up photography exhibition, Photoville, in New York. His work is in the collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture opening in Washington in fall 2016.

A different side of his city

But he hasn’t forgotten what got him here or what motivated him. Allen has starting a program teaching photography to inner-city children. He started a campaign on the crowdfunding platform GoFundMe and the response was big. Among the donors is hip hop entrepreneur Russell Simmons.

Now the program continues to grow, from the Penn North “Safe Zone,” a dedicated safe place for young people in the Sandtown neighborhood, to Baltimore city schools. Allen said the children are documenting everyday life at their school and working toward an exhibition as well as an online gallery of the students’ work.

Baltimore-based Under Armor approached Allen to sponsor his photography. The sports apparel and accessories maker also donated to Allen’s youth programs and sent him to Asia to photograph basketball player Stephen Curry. He went to Tokyo, Beijing, Shanghai and the Philippines. Allen traveled to Austria and visited a refugee camp where people from Syria are trying to get to Germany. This has had a big impact on Allen, who previously had never traveled outside of the United States.

“Being able to go to these communities, I’m basically seeing all these different struggles,” Allen said. “You know, I was only activist for one movement and now I stand for multiple movements. I’m becoming more, the more places that I go.”

These days, Allen and Under Armor are working on a deal for him to shoot for the company full time.

Allen still documents Baltimore to show a different side of the city, to show, he said, his community.

‘I’m not too small to make a change’

In December, the trial of Officer William Porter, the first of six city police officers charged in the death of Gray, resulted in a mistrial and in January, the trial of the next officer, Caesar Goodson Jr. was postponed. Allen saw a community that he says learned from some of the chaos in the demonstrations of April and still watches the case closely. He saw how the city came together to clean-up and create change following April’s unrest. Allen points to local prayer circles and even pickup football games with police officers and civilians standing together, calling it a beautiful example of how the community has come together. He encourages the community to stay focused on creating change in the city and to keep working to honor the legacy of Gray.

“Don’t just protest,” Allen said, “Bring this to everyday life. … Either we’re going to progress or we’ll move backwards.”

Allen said he will continue to do his part to document the story.

“Now I understand how powerful an image can be. I understand I’m not too small to make a change. I’m still an activist. I’m still a protester, you know. But at the same time, I’m in a different place now,” said Allen. “You know, I have a lot of attention on me, so I’m able to give back to the community. I’m able to inspire the youth and sway, you know, them with my words and by telling my story. … Devin Allen is — you know, everyone calls me the ‘Eyes of Baltimore.'”

CNN’s Miguel Marquez contributed to this report.

What the Pope has said about key issues facing the church

— As Pope Francis prepares to visit the United States for the first time, the world is waiting to hear what he will say about key issues facing the church.

The Pope is known for tackling sensitive topics head on. But for all his surprises and proclamations, what has Pope Francis done to address the issues facing the Roman Catholic Church?

Sex Abuse

“I feel compelled to take personal responsibility for all the evil that some priests, many — many in number, (although) not in comparison with the totality — to assume personal responsibility and to ask forgiveness for the damage caused by the sexual abuse of the children. The church is aware of this damage. We don’t want to take a step back in dealing with this problem and the sanctions that must be imposed.”

— Vatican Radio, April 11, 2014

In June 2015, Francis created a church tribunal to judge bishops who fail to protect children from sexually abusive priests. Since then, two U.S. bishops accused of covering up crimes of priests have stepped down.

In March 2014, the Pope met with six victims of church sexual abuse — not the first such meeting between a pope and sex-abuse survivors, but it was the first of his papacy. On March 22, Francis appointed the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, headed by Boston’s archbishop, Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley.

Previously, Francis had called for “zero tolerance” of sexual abuse by clerics, but critics accused the Vatican of being more talk than action.


“The Earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth. In many parts of the planet, the elderly lament that once beautiful landscapes are now covered with rubbish.”

— June 18, 2015, Encyclical Laudato Si’: On the Care of our Common Home

Pope Francis released a comprehensive statement about the environment, calling for “cultural revolution” to change our lifestyles — ranging from materialistic distraction to our addiction to technology to our treatment of the poor.

And the Pope wasn’t only talking to his Catholic flock. Francis said his letter was addressed to “every person living on this planet.”

Citing scientific consensus on global warming, “doomsday predictions,” warned Francis, “can no longer be met with irony or disdain.”

The Pope criticized big business, oil companies and politicians that he said seek profit over the betterment of life on the planet and called out the media for being shortsighted. He said humanity’s “reckless” behavior has pushed the planet to a perilous “breaking point.”

“Yet all is not lost,” Francis said. “Human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start.”

The encyclical was published in at least five languages and was more than a year in the making, church officials said, drawing on the work of dozens of scientists, theologians, scholars and previous popes.


“It is not enough to have altar girls, women readers. … Women in the church are more important than bishops and priests,” just as “Mary is more important than the apostles.”

— July 28, 2013, press conference

In 2013, Pope Francis said, “On the ordination of women, the church has spoken and said no,” and critics say he has been vague about what his pledge of “greater roles” for women in Catholicism would look like.

Pope Francis has come out in favor of increasing women’s roles in the church, appointing women to a few powerful Vatican positions, including the committee to combat sex abuse in the Catholic Church, with roughly half of that 17-member committee made up of women. There is also a female member of the supervisory board for the Vatican bank. Sister Donna Markham is the first female president of Catholic Charities — which supports more than 70,000 employees and serves 10 million across the United States — in its 105-year history.

According to Vatican Radio, just 18% of the Vatican’s workforce is female, including employees at Vatican museums, post offices and the Holy See that governs the Roman Catholic Church.


“The forgiveness of God cannot be denied to one who has repented, especially when that person approaches the Sacrament of Confession with a sincere heart in order to obtain reconciliation with the Father.”

— Pope’s letter on the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, September 1, 2015

Pope Francis shocked many this month when he announced that priests will be authorized to forgive the “sin of abortion” when the church begins a “Year of Mercy” on December 8.

The catechism of the Catholic Church says that a person who procures an abortion incurs automatic excommunication, a penalty that often only a bishop can lift. But some experts in the Catholic canon law expressed confusion about the practical effects of the Pope’s announcement.

“It’s another signal that the Pope wants a church of encounter that journeys with people,” said John Gehring, Catholic program director at Faith in Public Life. “He recognizes the church is anchored in the Gospel when mercy trumps finger-wagging judgment.”


“If they accept the Lord and have good will, who am I to judge them? They shouldn’t be marginalized. The tendency (to homosexuality) is not the problem. … They’re our brothers.”

— July 28, 2013, press conference

Similar to his comments on abortion, Pope Francis has yet to reverse church doctrine on the issues of homosexuality or same-sex marriage, but he has changed the way the church publicly talks about homosexuality.

Francis floated the idea that the church could support civil unions in an interview with an Italian newspaper on March 5, 2014. He reiterated the church’s longstanding teaching that “marriage is between a man and a woman,” but said, “We have to look at different cases and evaluate them in their variety” — the first time a pope has spoken on acceptance of civil unions, according to Catholic News Service.

CNN’s Daniel Burke contributed to this report.