Independent Lens: Through a Lens Darkly

About This Episode


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: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People probes the recesses of American history through 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, inspired by "Reflections in Black" by Deborah Willis, opens a window into the lives of black families, whose experiences and perspectives are often missing from the traditional historical canon.

Highlighted throughout the film is the work of pioneering black photographers, whose images help reclaim a sense of collective self-worth and humanity, and provide a rich history of African American contributions to the development of photography, both as an art form and a force to be reckoned with. Capturing the spirit of transformation that led African Americans from the deprivations of slavery to the self-sufficiency of economic mobility and social stability, Through a Lens Darkly also focuses on the ways in which black photographers learned to use the medium to construct strategically useful political, aesthetic, and cultural representations of themselves and their world.