'Through A Lens Darkly' At Atheneum Explores Work Of African American Photographers

Documentary exploring work of black photographers showing at Wadsworth

Thomas Allen Harris believes that photographic representation can be just as important as political representation.

"Once you are represented as being human, you are treated humanely. If you are represented as other than human, people treat you as second-class citizens," Harris said.

So making the documentary "Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People" was important to Harris. The chronicle of the history of African Americans as photographers and as photographic subjects, based on the book "Reflections in Black" by Deborah Willis, will be shown on Thursday, March 19, at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. The screening is being presented by The Amistad Center for Art & Culture.

Harris, who was approached by Willis to make the film, said making the movie made him think of his own family history with photography.

"On one side of the family, they were very invested in using the tool of photography. We would take pictures of ourselves. I think it's important for African Americans to take their own images of themselves. It was almost a ritual," he said. "But on my father's side, there wasn't that same sort of a ritual. So there was this way in which we felt the burden of representation.

"When you look through the camera lens, you don't see only with the eyes. You also see with the heart," he said. "The tool of photography offers a way of revisiting and also creating community."

The film, which includes 954 photographs made by, and of, African Americans, will be shown in the Aetna Theater at the museum at 600 Main St. in Hartford.

A 5:30 p.m. reception, which will be attended by writer-producer Don Perry. Olivia White, executive director of the Amistad Center for Art & Culture, will hold a dicussion with Perry.

The reception will be followed by the film at 7 p.m.

Admissionis $9, $8 seniors and students, $7 members, free for Insider Access members. Information: thewadsworth.org.

Editor's note: This story has been edited from a previous version to update the names of the people who will be present at the reception.


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