Correcting the Canon: The Work of Photographer Thomas Askew


Thomas Askew was a prominent early Black photographer from Atlanta and is featured in the Emmy and Peabody nominated film Through A Lens Darkly. In a recent article in ArtsATL, the story of Thomas Askew’s life in Atlanta was shared and it shows us how he shaped the visual culture around Black people and the identity of Atlanta through his perspective. Here is an excerpt from the ArtsATL written by Floyd Hall:


“Cited as the most prominent early African-American (or Black) photographer in Atlanta, Thomas Askew’s place in the city’s historical mythology often goes overlooked, but in Oakland Cemetery, where he is buried in a family plot in the cemetery’s African American Grounds, it’s a little easier to get a sense of the life he lived and the company he kept, even now in death.”



“Not much is known about Askew’s early life. Several sources place his birth in 1847. Though it is not known where he was a slave, we know he was one. Thomas Askew lived through slavery, the Reconstruction Era and the beginnings of Jim Crow in the American South.”

“The ability to frame and own one’s identity is no small feat; grappling with identity and perception is of historic importance among people of color, many of whom often feel misrepresented and miscast by the news media, commercial advertising and entertainment institutions. In those aforementioned areas, stereotypes are too common, nuances are missed, and representations often lack depth or authenticity.”


08772v_660“That Askew is not better known in Atlanta has to do with how we tell stories and how we remember history, and who gets to craft and control how that history is presented. Pam Henman, Oakland Cemetery’s Marketing and Public Relations Manager explains ‘He’s out there, but a lot of people don’t even know to look for him. Why that is, I don’t know.'”

For the full article:

, , , , , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply