Through A Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People

In his impressive and artistically versatile documentary, Thomas Allen Harris chronicles the history of photography from an Afro-American perspective. With the aid of countless archive photographs he makes apparent how, from the beginnings of photography to the present day, the black community used the camera as a tool for social change. If photography’s story has until now largely been told through the work of white photographers, Harris enables Afro-American photographers, collectors and historians to have their say and analyse and re-read their history in terms of representations of ‘blackness’ by others as opposed to self-representation. Making use of photographic arrangements, some of which are collage-like and others animated, the film introduces us to photographers of art-historical importance like Roy De Carvava and Deborah Willis who have influenced subsequent artists and inspired them with their powerful depiction of everyday life. As he did in his film E minha cara which screened at the Berlinale in 2002, Harris once again makes use of personal material depicting his own family in order to reflect upon the emergence of a sense of photographic identity among African Americans in the USA.
by Thomas Allen Harris
with Carrie Mae Weems, Lorna Simpson, Hank Willis Thomas, Lyle Ashton Harris, Glenn Ligon
USA 2014 92’

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