Through The Lens Darkly.....

Poster photo for Through the Lens Darkly by Lyle Ashton Harris (in collaboration with Thomas Allen Harris)

This morning I am in awe.

I had to watch it in pieces. So much to absorb. Finally the much anticipated PBS airing of Through the Lens Darkly was shown this week. I could not even finish watching before scrambling to Amazon to purchase for my collection.

For two years or more, since I first heard of the project, I have been waiting. Missing all the advance screenings, I could only view posted comments with envy. I knew it was going to be something. Knew it. And it did not disappoint on any level. As an artist,  as a woman of color, as a sometimes would be photo documentarian, I am still quaking in my soul.

Thank you! To all who participated, funded it, help pushed to bring it to light. Thank you. Especially to Deborah Willis. You saw the vision to record the history of African American photography, when a vision was needed. Always I remember my first trips to Harlem to visit my friend and your neighbor Cathy, thinking how you pushed out vision in the midst of trying to build a life for you and your son. Thank you, for not giving up. We needed that foundation. Because, still the dialogue of being black in America continues.

Do I seem to be over reacting. I am not. I recovered my wings this morning. Dusty and crumpled they have been speaking to me from the corner where they lay dormant all the time and I remembered that the impossible is possible. Do my words seems cryptic -- no matter. Actually they are meant to be. How can anyone understand another person's journey. We cannot. We can only live our own and try to make sense of it. Edit when necessary. Alter and figure out ways to move forward.

Through the Lens Darkly did that much for me. So I am now ready to release the anger and bitterness. The pain and the unjust condemnations. The fear and anxiety. The loss of power and sense of hopelessness that have risen so many times to choke me. Too many times. With the wave of my hand, the turn of my head, the smile on my lips it is released. I can see again! 

Such beautiful art. Such a rich history we have. Such a gift to be able to create. To make something in spaces where nothing was before. To make sense of things too hard or painful to understand... That is the legacy of black photography in America. That is the wonder and inspiration that fills me at this moment. I am ready to work on my own ART. 

"When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a woman, I put away childish things.

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known."  

1 CORINTHIANS 13:11-12


Through the Lens Darkly Website:

2014 ‧ Biography/Historical Documentary ‧ 1h 32m
  • Filmmaker Thomas Allen Harris examines how photography has affected the lives of black Americans.

  • 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.

    The video was release for purchase on February 10, 2015:
    Available on Amazon:

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

  • Initial release: January 17, 2014

  • Also visit:
    A national project to connect communities and
    history through our family photographic archives


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