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


Inspired by Deborah Willis’s book Reflections In Black: A History Of Black Photographers 1840 To The Present, Through a Lens Darkly tells the story of two American worlds: the African American and the Caucasian – as represented by photographers and their photographs.

Writer/director/narrator Thomas Allen Harris refers to the ‘legacies’ of these two worlds when he comments, “How was, is, the photograph used in the battle between two legacies: Self-affirmation and negation. Our salvation – as a people, as a culture depends on salving the wounds of this war, a war of images within the American family album.”

In still and moving images, Harris covers close to two centuries of American history, the nation’s horrific treatment African Americans – a treatment that continues today unabated – and the role of images and their makers that reflect and sculpt the two legacies.

In addition to Harris’ narration we hear from African American photographers and historians, and see a cornucopia of images. Harris weaves his personal story into the film’s ongoing narrative. The soundtrack perfectly mirrors and enhances all.

The vast number of images in Through a Lens Darkly along with its abundance of information make multiple viewings desirable.

Note: The Digital Diaspora Family Reunion Roadshow is an interactive project that ties-in with the film. For more details, go to

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