In a new interview featured in Ebony Magazine, Filmmaker Thomas Allen Harris talks about the importance of family photographs especially in African-American history, mentioning his Emmy nominated film Through a Lens Darkly and transmedia Digital Diaspora Family Reunion. And just as important, the article pays homage to the importance of Black Photographers in preserving that unique history. Here is an excerpt from the Ebony interview conducted by William Bryant Rozier:
“As the status of the professional photographer has taken a hit, so has the value of the professional photograph, whether it’s taken by a working photographer or by a photo enthusiast.
Award-winning filmmaker and photographer Thomas Allen Harris knew the latter. “Growing up, my grandfather (Albert Sidney Johnson Jr.) was an amateur photographer. Anytime he had all of his grandkids together for Easter or any event, he would take an hour to pose us. That was a ritual that I grew up with,” said the filmmaker.
“Harris’ most notable, most Netflix-able work is the award-winning (recently Emmy-nominated) documentary Through A Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People (2014), telling the root-to-the-fruit quest for social change set by history’s black photographers. Family photography (and family pictures taken by Albert Johnson) leads the way.”
“Harris’ longtime project has taken on the cause of re-energizing the family photograph, making it an all-inclusive, hunt-gather-show-and-tell. Since 2009, Digital Diaspora Family Reunion (DDFR) has been touring the country (and overseas) with its multimedia community engagement event, the DDFR Roadshow. DDFR bridges inter-generational and cross-cultural differences, deeply affecting participants in intimate and surprising ways.”
“We educate people about the importance of “puration” in terms of out of all the images they take, which ones they print out and why.”
Family pictures, said Harris, “are just as important now, probably even more so than they were back in the day. Most people are taking digital images using their cell phones, but they’re also not taking their images out, they are losing the images in [all of] those of images we click off everywhere.”