Devin Allen teaches kids the ins and outs of photography. (Photo by Lisa Snowden-McCray)

It’s the golden hour – that time right before sunset when the sun’s rays hit the world just so – and Baltimore photographer Devin Allen is on a playground with about seven children, across from the Sandtown-Winchester-based Kids Safe Zone.

It’s a warm day and the playground is busy – kids run and scream and swing and dribble basketballs. Allen and his crew dart around – trying different shots and angles, crouching low to the ground and tilting the cameras this way and that.

Every few minutes, the group forms a tight cluster around Allen, and he gives them feedback – complimenting one on a shot, or telling another how to make it better.

It’s all part of a project funded by the Russel Simmons-backed RushCard. In July, the company announced that Allen would receive grant money through the company’s Keep the Peace initiative. The funds go to nonprofit, community-based organizations all over the country that are dedicated to reducing violence.

On this day, Michael Skolnik, Editor and Chief of Simmons’ Global Grind website, is there watching Allen work.

“I’m not the only one who recognized the incredible talent he has,” Skolnik said. “RushCard, over the summer, we gave away almost $40 million to programs around the country doing peace work. So, I reached out to him and said we want to give him $25,000 to work with young people, create a program, and here we are.”

He said that they hope to hold an exhibition to show off the children’s work.

“We didn’t really give much restrictions. We just said ‘look we believe in you, we believe in you as a community leader, as an artistic visionary. Here’s a grant and do what you think you should do with it.’”

Allen has seen some huge successes since his photograph from April’s unrest made the cover of {Time} magazine –he’s been profiled in the {New York Times}, on NBC News, BBC News and currently has a solo exhibition of his work at Baltimore’s Reginald F. Lewis Museum. He said that he owes it to the city to give back – because it was the city that put him in this unique position.

“I’m from here,” he said. “I’m a social activist and I’m a social photographer, so my success is because of my community.”

“I’m an awesome photographer, but if the Freddie Gray situation never would have happened…my career would have never been recognized on the level that it did. I was born out of something negative, so with me doing something positive, I want to give back.”

Allen said that he couldn’t be happier with how the children are taking to the project.

“These kids are amazing. Once they really know ‘this is ISO, this is shutter speed,’ when they really learn the ins and outs they’re going to be better than me, and that’s what I want.”

He wants to make this project a long-term thing.

“At the end of the day, this is something I want to grow on a larger scale so take it to the next level. More kids, more cameras, more hands-on people from the community. That way, Lord willing, if my career stays successful, I can keep getting other sponsorships from other companies. You never know, me and these kids could start our own newspaper, document our own community, tell our own stories. That’s one of the ultimate end goals.”