A native of San Francisco, Jules graduated from art school and headed for New York to photograph African-American culture and for many years has taught at Queensborough Community College.
“I wanted to show a culture of activity. I was tired of seeing photographs of Black people sitting on the porch doing nothing, being victimized, being dependent. We do things,” said Mr. Allen in an interview with Davis Gonzales of The New York Times. In the 1980s, Mr. Allen went to be trained in Gleason’s Gym, the oldest, active boxing gym in the country. The story and images found in Double Up are a result of Allen’s work with the renowned boxing, master-trainer, Bobby McQuillen, who also worked with Sugar Ray Robinson, and Muhammad Ali.
He had also trained Miles Davis and Mr. Allen is a huge fan Miles’ coolosity. “That’s all it took for me! He invited me to train. I said, ‘What’s the value in somebody like me training?’ And he said, ‘Son, whatever you do, you’ll do it better if you train with me.’ He told me about what he did, how to breathe, how to move. And then I started seeing a photographic sensibility reveal itself to me.” Double Up is the result of Jules Allen’s keen capture of beauty in black and white photographs of Geason’s.
In one image, a man lifts his pants leg to reveal a revolver in an ankle holster. “That cat did 15 years in the joint for murder,” Mr. Allen said. “He used to tell me, ‘You come here like you’re sophisticated. But you don’t know this world. You’re sophisticated outside, with schoolbooks. But you don’t know what you’re doing here.’ All I could say was, ‘You’re right. You’re right.’” But he learned. His pictures show champions.
Allen, the recipient of numerous grants and awards, has been widely exhibited in the U.S. and abroad. His photographs are included in numerous museums, inclusive of the Museum of Modern Art, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Brooklyn Museum, the Smithsonian, the National Gallery, the Schomburg Center for Culture & Research and others.