GMU Visiting Filmmakers Series: Through a Lens Darkly Mon 16 March 4:30pm Johnson Center Cinema

Monday, March 16, 2015 4:30 PM to 7:30 PM EDT
Johnson Center, Cinema

GMU Visiting Filmmakers Series Presents:

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

Monday 16 March 4:30pm | Johnson Center Cinema

Screening and discussion with director Thomas Allen Harris and producer Deborah Willis 


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.

Inspired by co-producer and GMU alumnus Deborah Willis’ book, Reflections in Black, Through a Lens Darkly casts a broad net that begins with filmmaker Thomas Allen Harris’ family album. It considers the difference between black photographers who use the camera to define themselves, their people, and their culture and some white photographers who, historically, have demeaned African Americans through racist imagery. The film embraces both historical material (African Americans who were slaves, who fought in the Civil War, were victims of lynchings, or were pivotal in the Civil Rights Movement) and contemporary images made by such luminaries as Roy DeCarava, Gordon Parks, and Carrie Mae Weems. 

A.O. Scott writes, "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, [Thomas Allen Harris] is a wise and passionate guide to an inexhaustibly fascinating subject."

Thomas Allen Harris is the founder and President of Chimpanzee Productions. Born in the Bronx and raised in New York City and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Harris is a graduate of Harvard College and the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Independent Study Program. Harris began his career producing for public television, for which he received several awards including two Emmy nominations (in 1991) for his work as a staff producer at WNET on The Eleventh Hour. In 1990 he curated the first New York/San Francisco Gay and Lesbian Town Hall meeting, a three-hour public television event, which culminated in the broadcast of Marlon Riggs' Tongues Untied. Harris is a recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including United States Artist Award, Guggenheim Fellowship, Rockefeller Fellowship, as well as CPB/PBS and Sundance Directors Fellowships. Harris has taught, written and lectured widely on media.

Deb Willis is chair of the Department of Photography & Imaging at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University and has an affiliated appointment as University Professor with the College of Arts and Sciences, Africana Studies also at NYU. Professor Willis has been the recipient of Guggenheim, Fletcher, and MacArthur fellowships, the Infinity Award in Writing from the International Center for Photography, and recipient of the Anonymous Was a Woman Foundation Award. Named one of the "100 Most Important People in Photography" by American Photography magazine she is one of the nation's leading historians of African American photography and curators of African American culture. Willis's books include Envisioning Emancipation: Black Americans and the End of Slavery, with Barbara Krauthamer, Posing Beauty: African American Images from the 1890s to the Present.

Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People (First Run Features 2014) 

Screening and discussion are free and open to the public.  

For more information:
Cynthia Fuchs
Director, Film & Media Studies | @gmufams 
Mika'il Petin 
Associate Director, African & African American Studies 


GMU Visiting Filmmakers Series: Through a Lens Darkly is sponsored by Film & Media Studies, African & African American Studies, Film & Video Studies, Cultural Studies, English, History & Art History, the Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Multicultural Education, the School of Art, Sociology and Anthropology, University Life, and Women & Gender Studies.

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