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Souls Against the Concrete

Souls Against the Concrete

This volume presents a gallery of raw and beautiful portraits created in Harlem by the acclaimed young photographer Khalik Allah, producer of the award-winning documentary Field Niggas

October 2017
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208 pages | 12 x 7.75 | 105 color photos |

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Khalik Allah is a New York–based photographer and filmmaker whose work has been described as “street opera,” simultaneously penetrative, hauntingly beautiful, and visceral. His photography has been acclaimed by the New York Times, TIME Light Box, the New Yorker, the Guardian, the Village Voice, the BBC, and the Boston Globe. Since 2012, Allah has been photographing people who frequent the corner of 125th Street and Lexington Avenue in Harlem. Shooting film at night with only the light pouring from storefront windows, street lights, cars, and flashing ambulances, he captures raw and intimate portraits of “souls against the concrete.”

This volume presents a gallery of 105 portraits created with a Nikon F2 35mm camera and a photography predicated on reality. Inviting viewers to look deeply into the faces of people living amid poverty, drug addiction, and police brutality, but also leading everyday lives, Allah seeks to dispel fears, capture human dignity, and bring clarity to a world that outsiders rarely visit. This nuanced portrayal of nocturnal urban life offers a powerful and rare glimpse into the enduring spirit of a slowly gentrifying Harlem street corner and the great legacies of black history that live there.


Long Island, New York

Allah is a New York–based filmmaker and photographer. His award-winning documentary film Field Niggas, whose name was inspired by Malcolm X’s “Message to the Grassroots” speech, chronicles summer nights on the corner of 125th and Lexington Avenue in the heart of Harlem. Allah’s eye for daring documentary portraiture and bold aesthetics takes us into a world in which beauty, bleakness, and raw spirit all intersect. From his early photographs of Wu-Tang Clan to his cinematography for Beyoncé’s visual album Lemonade, Allah’s profoundly personal work goes beyond street photography to delve deep into the visual stream of consciousness that is Harlem.



"It is easy to walk through a city not making eye contact, but for photographer Khalik Allah this contact is essential. He sees each individual he photographs. And his photographs in turn allow us to see them, to acknowledge who we might ignore, to look through Allah’s eye and into theirs, and to recognize them as individuals. This is the power of Allah’s work. . . Here, he gives us a deeper sense of people as people, to share and enlighten, even when the message may not be clean or easy."
L’Oeil de la Photographie


Book Trailer

Podcast Conversation with Eli Reed