Over the last couple of years, Khalik Allah has been recognized internationally as photographer. With poignant reportages about African-Americans who live on the fringes of society, he reached beyond appearances to show the hidden “interior” of his protagonists. In this way, his pictures lend dignity to the marginalized and the hopeless without sugar-coating their brutal realities.
The same empathy characterizes Allah’s films, which could be seen as kind of “street photography in motion”. His portrait of New York night dwellers, Field Niggas, was widely celebrated. In his new film, the photographer and filmmaker turns to his Jamaican roots.
Black Mother is an audio-visual poem full of hard contrasts, glances, gestures, and the sound of the ubiquitous “patois”, but also elevated by unexpected moments of beauty. In it, Allah pays tribute to the daily struggle for survival on the tropical island, to the prostitutes, the homeless, the disfigured, the all-pervasive poverty, as well as to the exuberant vitality and deep spirituality.
The film avoids the typical cliché traps of so many social reportages about marginalization and poverty. In this regard, the polyphone soundtrack which composes a rhythmic collage of great musicality, is particularly important: the consequent separation of sound and image constitutes a distance which creates room for a clear view unfettered by cliché.
By adapting for his own images, the faded and colour tinged look of the used archive material with iris and visible splice, Khalik Allah achieves historical depth and, at the same time, an urgency as if he wished to present his protagonists with their long-denied history.
Khalik Allah is a self taught filmmaker and photographer. His profoundly personal work has been described as visceral, hauntingly beautiful, penetrative and honest. Khalik’s first book of photo-graphs, Souls Against the Concrete, was published by University of Texas Press in 2017. His eye for daring portraiture and bold aesthetics have distinguished him as a new visionary in the field. With his award-winning film Field Niggas, Khalik garnered the attention of The New York Times, The New Yorker, Vice, and The Guardian.