With a body of documentary work that explores his and other African-American lives, the creator of the Digital Diaspora Family Reunion is finishing his newest doc and multimedia outreach project about the history of African American photography.
Thomas Allen Harris, whose past films like THAT’S MY FACE/E MINHA CARA and TWELVE DISCIPLES OF NELSON MANDELA have often blended the autobiographical with cogent social and historical analysis of race and identity, has been at the forefront in recent years in encouraging other African-Americans to explore their own past through the DDFR project. Simultaneously, he’s been working on this expansive, multi-faceted exploration of the historical intersection of African Americans and photography, from the birth of the medium to the present. The film, which will screen on PBS and will include a transmedia component, will document how African Americans have employed the power of the photographic medium to counter mainstream depictions and distortions of their lives, empowering them to control their own representations, and, importantly, to change consciousness and prejudices.
Harris has reached one third of his ambitious $100,000 USA Projects campaign for essential post-production costs. There are two weeks left in his crowdfunding campaign, so consider donating if you can. A selection of photos and additional information about the project may be found at Harris’ Digital Diaspora site here.
I’m excited about Harris’ project largely because I’m drawn to hidden or erased histories, and especially those that exist in the margins of the mainstream either through deliberate subversion, or, as is the case here, because cultural hegemony privileged particular stories over others. The real potential of this film and of the DDFR is in reintroducing this history to modern audiences, especially but not exclusively African Americans, and encouraging them to expand upon it with their own long suppressed or undervalued legacies.