"An extraordinary new documentary by filmmaker Thomas Allen Harris, is at-once a deep, rich dive into the history of African American photography and -- transcending the subject at hand -- a master class in visual literacy."
- Mia Tramz, Time Magazine
"CRITIC'S PICK! To describe Thomas Allen Harris's 'Through a Lens Darkly' as a history of African-American photography would be accurate but incomplete. Inspired by the book “Reflections in Black”, Deborah Willis’s groundbreaking and thorough excavation of a vital and neglected photographic tradition, Mr. Harris’s film is a family memoir, a tribute to unsung artists and a lyrical, at times heartbroken, meditation on imagery and identity. The film is always absorbing to watch, but only once it’s over do you begin to grasp the extent of its ambitions, and just how much it has done within a packed, compact hour and a half. Overall, he is a wise and passionate guide to an inexhaustibly fascinating subject."
- A. O. Scott, The New York Times
"A rich, moving documentary...dense with both information and purpose. The film is an expansive, fast-moving look at the African American experience since slavery, canvassing everything from the media savvy of figures like Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth to the ways that contemporary black identity has been corroded by consumerism. A who’s-who from academia and the visual-arts world weighs in with historical context and pungent analysis." - Ernest Hardy, LA Weekly
"One of the most important and necessary documentaries of the year." -Indiewire
"A timely reminder of how images of African-Americans have been stereotyped and demonized by popular media... cannily juggles an overview of African-American history in general with the specifics of its photographic representation and talents...Harris sometimes echoes the work of his late mentor Marlon Riggs ('Tongues Untied') in poetic editorial rhythms." - Dennis Harvey,Variety
"In his new documentary, filmmaker Thomas Allen Harris lays out the thesis that black people in this country have mostly been seen through the eyes of white image makers who have infused popular culture with Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben, Darkie toothpaste, The Birth of a Nation and more. Harris shows how these images have long conditioned our collective subconscious, informing our attitudes toward black people and often black people's attitudes toward themselves. As Through a Lens Darkly demonstrates, it's only through the eyes of black photographers that we see differently. With the thousand words vividly painted through each picture, we connect, identify and find solidarity. Some of the black photographers' works here are breathtaking. But there's so much more to take away from Harris' documentary. It unequivocally confirms the necessity of diversity in media, the business of image making." - Martin Tsai, The Los Angeles Times
"Engrossing...entrancing...well-crafted. The old saw about a picture being worth a thousand words indicates the extraordinary power of the images 'Through a Lens Darkly' organizes so thoughtfully and compellingly."
- Godfrey Cheshire,RogerEbert.com
"Powerful... worth seeing just for the amazing archival footage, a marvelous collection of black-and-white and color photographs that show how a people can reclaim their image and validate their culture in the face of extreme prejudice." - Mark Rifkin,This Week in New York
"This documentary offers a much-needed correction to the historical record, where images of African-Americans -- and Africans themselves -- often resorted to offensive tableaux that not only demeaned their subjects, but also denied them their basic humanity." - David Gonzalez,The New York Times
"'Through a Lens Darkly' is a celebration of limitless possibility. It is an ode to Black photographers – as cultural authors, as activists, and as true arbiters of revelation. It renders the faces of by-gone generations visible and lights the way into the future. It deftly traces the history of Black photography in the United States. It is a lesson in the potent effects of the camera in defining (for better or for worse) the individual, the larger community and thus, the entirety of the collective culture." - Jamie Maleszka,Leveled Magazine
"As filtered through Harris’ own lens, this cultural chronicle is both poetic and insightful, enlivening an entire hidden history as well as preserving it for all to see." - Stephen Saito, Moveable Feast
"Lush, lovely, [and] loving …Lens presents a teeming abundance of stirring and often brilliant imagery by African-American artists." - Ray Pride, New City Film
"With cameras aimed at kin, we have captured our ordinary selves, our everyday selves, our true selves. In our own images, we have been glorious. Through a Lens Darkly, an independent film that examines the history of black photography, celebrates this glory." - Eisa Ulen, Truth-Out.org
"The material that Harris works with in 'Through a Lens Darkly' is rich and stunning: the semi-secret history of African-American photo imagery, from the slavery days to the present. The circumstantial subtext of the early photos is always fascinating — portraits of naked slaves, and black family album shots during the Restoration, and the defiant selfies printed and sold by Sojourner Truth as 19th-century totems of black power, all radiated practical, sociopolitical import in their day. Photography's force as a generator of signifiers and social ideas was, from its very beginning, particularly meaningful for, as Harris puts it, a people in 'emergence.'" - Michael Atkinson, The Village Voice
"The photographs on view are dazzling...particularly in the film's first half, when the 19th- and early 20th-century photographs reveal ordinary African-American life in ways that haven't been seen nearly often enough, the images are rich and powerful." - Farran Smith Nehme, The New York Post
"Certain images, particularly of the Reconstruction period, Harlem Renaissance and Black Power movement of the 1960s-70s positively burst from the screen with their ebullient joy and justifiable pride, and others, like the infamous shots of racist victim Emmett Till in his casket, which his mother strikingly allowed, sear themselves into your mind with their pure horror." - David Noh, Film Journal
First Run Features •The Film Center Building • 630 Ninth Avenue • Suite 1213 • New York • NY 10036 • Phone: (212) 243-0600 • Fax: (212) 989-7649