Deborah Willis' book, Reflections in Black, this new documentary by Thomas Allen Harris is a not-to-be-missed exploration of black photography and photographers, from as far back as the beginning of the medium up until pretty much our modern times. The trip unveils a wealth of photos, most of which I can near guarantee you won't have seen, as well as interviews with more than 50 African-American photog-raphers and/or historians whose ongoing narration is informative, often surprising and sometimes wonderfully poetic.
Sojourner Truth and her photos, from which she actually earned a living, to the more modern work of Renee Cox, shown on poster, top, and below.
THROUGH A LENS DARKLY: BLACK PHOTOGRAPHERS AND THE EMERGENCE OF A PEOPLE is eye-opening is so many ways -- from its explanation of what passing-for-white meant to many blacks in earlier times (and what is a photo of J. Edgar Hoover doing here, I wonder? Was he perhaps a mixed-race cross-dresser?) to what the wonderful work of photographers like Gordon Parks and Roy De Carava meant to their contemporaries, as well as to us now.
Emmett Till, alive and then dead, but there is plenty of beauty on display to compensate (but not erase) the horror of American racism. We even get a short look at some smart commercial photography along the way, and this charming thought from one of our more recent photographers, as his morning arrives, "If I just wake up fast enough, I can photograph my dream!"
First Run Features and totaling 93 minutes in length, after a nice theatrical run last year, it can now be seen, beginning yesterday, February 2, as an iTunes exclusive; then on DVD come February 10; premiering February 16 on PBS Independent Lens, and arriving via Netflix on February 17.