The first documentary to explore the role of photography in shaping the identity, aspirations and social emergence of African Americans from slavery to the present, Through a Lens Darkly probes the recesses of American history by discovering images that have been suppressed, forgotten and lost. Bringing to light the hidden and unknown photos shot by both professional and vernacular African American photographers, the film opens a window into lives, experiences and perspectives of black families that is absent from the traditional historical canon. These images show a much more complex and nuanced view of American culture and society and its founding ideals. Inspired by Deborah Willis’s book Reflections in Black and featuring the works of Carrie Mae Weems, Lorna Simpson, Anthony Barboza, Hank Willis Thomas, Coco Fusco, Clarissa Sligh and many others, Through a Lens Darkly introduces the viewer to a diverse yet focused community of storytellers who transform singular experiences into a communal journey of discovery – and a call to action. Director Thomas Allen Harris joins us to talk about the extraordinary power of photography to shape, distort and illuminate African-American lives from slavery to the present.
Opening Friday, November 14th at the Laemmle Playhouse 7 in Pasadena
“At-once a deep, rich dive into the history of African American photography and —
transcending the subject at hand — a master class in visual literacy.”
- Mia Tramz, Time Magazine
A family memoir, a tribute to unsung artists and a lyrical, at times heartbroken, meditation on imagery and identity. The film is always absorbing to watch, but only once it’s over do you begin to grasp the extent of its ambitions, and just how much it has done within a packed, compact hour and a half. Overall, he is a wise and passionate guide to an inexhaustibly fascinating subject.” - A. O. Scott, The New York Times
“A timely reminder of how images of African-Americans have been stereotyped and demonized by popular media… cannily juggles an overview of African-American history in general with the specifics of its photographic representation and talents…Harris sometimes echoes the work of his late mentor Marlon Riggs (‘Tongues Untied’) in poetic editorial rhythms.” – Dennis Harvey, Variety
“One of the most important and necessary documentaries of the year.” – Indiewire