This semester, those of us in the first year are taking a seminar with David Deitcher about contemporary documentary practice called From Critique to Rehabilitation. We are exploring the critical issues around the documentary image post 9/11. There is a rich tradition of criticism so it has been very useful to examine the issues more deeply and to engage in vivid dialogue with my classmates.
This week we were asked to watch the documentary, Through a Lens Darkly, directed by Thomas Allen Harris. It screened last night on Independent Lens, a documentary series on PBS. The film examines the role of photography in shaping the lives of African Americans (from slavery to the present) and reveals a largely unknown legacy. The documentary was really compelling and I learned so much about how photography has been used to suppress a people, but also how African American photographers and families have used images to reaffirm the nuances of their existence in a culture that far too often relies on stereotypes or all out erasure. Visibility is a very important issue in my own work so there was so much here that was resonant for me. I can’t recommend this film more.
It can be rented on both iTunes and Netflix.