Yale Filmmaker Discusses Power of Family Photos in Black History Month Film Series

“’In this deeply polarized moment, even truth is deeply contested,’ Harris says. ‘One thing that’s indisputable is the family photograph. It helps people to find a common ground. I see you, I hear you.'”

Read more: Yale School of Medicine

Visions and Voices Hosts Thomas Allen Harris

“Our methodology helps people become more understanding, empathetic and patient with our differences.”

Thank you to the Daily Trojan for interviewing me and profiling our 2021 Community PhotoShare event with the USC School of Cinematic Arts and USC Visions and Voices: The Arts and Humanities Initiative, “Family Pictures USC: How I Got Here.”

Read more: Daily Trojan

Family Pictures USA: Conversation with Thomas Allen Harris

“We all know the adage: a picture’s worth a thousand words — you could show the same photograph to 12 different people, and they would see 12 different narratives in it. They could be contradictory narratives, but they would be that person’s truth…

But I do think that, in terms of truth and photography, vis a vis Family Pictures USA, there is a certain power around creating a narrative out of multiple truths – multiple images and multiple stories within the family… or community… or the nation. The idea of weaving disparate narratives, particularly across generations, ethnicity, and other differences, presents a truth that is valuable to us in terms of our survival as a collective and diverse body. To witness and acknowledge the truths in one another’s experiences. This is so important especially in this present moment, after coming out of the last four years where truth has been so politicized.”

Read more: Truth in Photography

Black Nations/Queer Nations?

Family Pictures USA joined Third World Newsreel on June 24 for a special screening and discussion in celebration of Pride Month! I was in conversation with author and scholar Jafari Allen as well as Senior Programmer for Sundance Film Festival and Director Shari Frilot about her historic 1995 film Black Nations/Queer Nations? Lesbian and Gay Sexualities in the African Diaspora, and its meaning today on its 25th anniversary.

Outreach as Production: Family Pictures USA

“We don’t simply elevate underrepresented stories. We also create new cultural links between various communities as we go, developing new structures through which Americans can imagine their collective histories.”

Excited to have contributed a piece to the World Records Journal for their newest issue, edited by Professor of Film and Media Studies at CUNY Alexandra Juhasz & filmmaker and scholar Alisa Lebow! The most recent theme of the World Records Journal, “Beyond Story,” explores what documentary is while looking toward what it might become in the future.

Read more: World Records Journal

NOVA Frontier Film Festival 2021: Cultural Identity and Belonging

The theme of this year’s festival was Past, Present, Future Home, and I spoke with various international filmmakers and extended our Family Pictures USA methodology across nations. The festival highlights the concepts of Black joy, resistance, and the liberation of Black and Brown bodies in America, and showcased works from the African Diaspora, the Middle East and Latin America. The panel I moderated explores similar themes as our Family Pictures USA project – the complex notions of home and sense of belonging, culture identity and how it’s negotiated today.

Media Impact Forum 2021

On June 16th, I had the pleasure to be featured in this year’s Media Impact Forum and be in dialogue with Executive Director Vince Stehle and philanthropic leaders about how Family Pictures USA‘s transformative storytelling is uniting America across differences by uplifting the contributions of all communities! Media Impact Funders sees Family Pictures USA and our multimedia outreach project as an initiative that supports democracy and as an antidote to authoritarianism.

What I’m Working On

“As an artist who employs film and video, installation, performance, photography, television, new media, and critical essay, CCAM provides me with a fertile ground; it is an ideal place for my courses as well as research pursuits. My work queers narrative modalities to reformulate ideas around family, gender, community, and race. Drawing from the rich heritage of the African-American literary and artistic canon, I seek to re-interpret and expand concepts around identity, autobiography, and representation.”

Read more: Yale Maquette

FAMILY PICTURES USA: Q&A with Series Host, Director, and Executive Producer, Thomas Allen Harris

Moderated by Dr. Michael Renov, Vice Dean of Academic Affairs, USC School of Cinematic Arts, on Wednesday, March 10th, 2021.

Black Public Media marks 40th year with 40 for 40 Media Game Changers list

Thomas Allen Harris is honored in Black Public Media‘s “40 Media Game Changers” list, which celebrates those who “pushed forward Black storytelling” over the last 40 years of BPM’s history!

BPM’s 40 for 40 Media Game Changers list spotlights trailblazers in the categories of Storytellers, Media Executives and Curators and Institutions.

The honorees include artists, producers, executives, non-profits and companies whose work has helped form the modern landscape of Black, independent media.

Read More: Realscreen

A Master Class for Philanthropy in Listening

Throughout America today, headlines reveal political division, racial animus, and horrific episodes of gun violence sparked by xenophobic ideology. In mass media and through direct expression in social media dominated by angry political invective, it seems that America has never been more divided.

Along comes a new show on PBS — Family Pictures USA — that portrays a very different America: a land filled with communities that embrace and reflect the rich tapestry that is our nation’s culture and ancestry. And not a moment too soon.

Read More: Chronicle of Philanthropy

How one man’s family photo archive led to a global ‘family’ album

Since 2009, Harris has traveled the country and beyond, collecting photographs and their stories from families at community photo-sharing events for his project Digital Diaspora Family Reunion (DDFR). He shares the photos and the family stories behind them with live audiences and uploads the materials to a website. Harris has collected more than 50,000 digital images for the project, which he said he thinks of as a giant, global family album.

Read More: Yale News

A New TV Show Looks at Family Albums Across the USA

In this way, a kind of Americanism underlies Family Pictures USA, and it is indeed embedded in sentimental responses to family photographs of ancestors. According to the French historian Ernest Renan, the cult of ancestors is at the very core of a nation. In the United States, the White, male founding fathers have shaped perceptions of America’s foundation as British and Western European. The new Americanism presented in Family Pictures USA challenges this ancestral history. 

Read More: Hyperallergic

Why You Should Be Watching Family Pictures USA on PBS

[Thomas Allen Harris] unburies opulent individual stories which are crucial in expanding the comprehension of our shared past. Thomas Allen Harris exposes the shared diversity and universal values of American people; he portrays that every American is laced to another.

Read More: TVOM

Family Pictures USA Unearths Rich Personal Stories

Family photos of everyday milestones—marriage, childhood, a new car, a growing business—provide a visual portal for examining our roots. They also expose the surprising connections and provocative parallels of our past, informing our shared future. Family Pictures USA, a new WGBH series, unearths rich personal stories that expand understanding of our history, diversity and common values.

Read More: WGBH

How Family Pictures USA tells stories of people and places through their photos

[Family Pictures USA] weaves a narrative from people’s photos, sometimes using them to illustrate history, and more often diving into them to explore the connections between people and places.

Read more: Reality Blurred

“The family album allows us all to start from a certain common space,” he said. In a recent interview, Harris discussed the family album in understanding identity and how his series responds to the concept of the United States as a “divided country.” 

Read More: The New York Times

‘Family Pictures USA,’ an exploration of community through photographs, makes PBS debut on August 12

Harris visited dozens of cities across the United States creating shared experiences of familial pride that made for compelling content for “Family Pictures USA,” which showcases families in Detroit, North Carolina and Florida.

Read More: The St. Louis American

Scrapbooks and racial histories tell America’s story in PBS’ ‘Family Pictures USA’

In a time of rage and racial division, filmmaker Thomas Allen Harris has been traveling the country and thumbing through family scrapbooks for a documentary that reveals how intertwined Americans are through shared histories and defining struggles that stretch from Southern plantations to Detroit car factories.

Read more: LA Times

New Reality Show Mines Family Albums for Black History

The brainchild of filmmaker and artist Thomas Allen Harris, Family Pictures USA is the latest outgrowth of an award-winning body of work from this director who has always been driven by a desire to bring the largely hidden and neglected history of black people in America into the light.

Read more: Black Enterprise

The Hidden Histories Buried in Your Family’s Photo Album

Family pictures often illustrate everyday milestones — like birthday parties, weddings or family reunions. But they can also illuminate deep and complex stories about communities, values and identity. 

Listen and Read more: North Carolina Public Radio®-WUNC

Keeping the face: ‘Family Pictures USA’ brings Southwest Florida into sharper focus

We see family photos as highly personal. Yet their sepia-Kodachrome DNA soaks up our community, its culture and its history. Southwest Florida is about to demonstrate that on national television. 

Read more: Naples Daily News

The 5 New TV Shows You Can’t Miss in August

These days family pictures are just a touch away on our phones. Maybe you create a holiday card or calendar out of them but family albums, like the one my parents have of my first year, are in many ways a thing of the past. Photographer Thomas Allen Harris worries that much is getting lost in the digital age.

Read more: Paste Magazine

Family Pictures USA has a treat in store for A Chef’s Life Fans

“On August 12, “Family Pictures USA” premieres on PBS. The show travels the country to dig into family photo albums, revealing more than just quirky hairdos and baby pictures. Thomas Allen Harris, host, director, and executive producer, is a venerated filmmaker whose lens offers glimpses into the human condition. In “Family Pictures USA,” he pairs that instinct with a focus on history to tell the story of our country through our families.”

Read more: A Chef’s Life

Southwest Florida via PBS!

“Tune in to WGCU HD on August 13 at 9 p.m. and watch with pride what the rest of the country will be watching with envy – Family Pictures USA – Southwest Florida!  WGCU is the co-presenting station and Southwest Floridians are featured prominently in the upcoming national three-part series, Family Pictures USA, created and hosted by filmmaker and photographer Thomas Allen Harris. Joining WGCU in presenting this PBS series is UNC-TV Public Media North Carolina.”

Read more: WGCU News

New PBS series ‘Family Pictures USA’ features episode on Detroit family snapshots

“…the Detroit Historical Museum partnered on the “Family Pictures USA” research effort as part of the “Detroit 67: Looking Back to Move Forward” community-engagement project. Much like the oral histories recorded by the museum to preserve recollections of the riot that occurred in the summer of 1967, the photos shared through the TV series tell the story of Detroit.”

Read more: Detroit Free Press

Q&A: Thomas Allen Harris, Family Pictures USA

We know our family history through the images we retain: albums, videos, memories. What kind of story do these images tell when we look at the bigger picture?

Premiering Aug. 12 and 13 on PBS, the three-part series Family Pictures USA explores American communities through the lens of family photo albums, unearthing rich personal stories that expand our understanding.

Read more: WPT

Area senior care company sponsors new, national PBS series

“A Southwest Florida-based senior care advisory company has signed on as an underwriter for a new PBS series, Family Pictures USA. With support of Oasis Senior Advisors, headquartered in Bonita Springs, the program explores American cities, towns and rural communities through the lens of the family photo album.”

Read more: Business Observer

Family Pictures USA premieres August 2019

For the past 150 years, families have used the photo album to pass on their stories from one generation to the next,” said Harris. “The family album has kept us together. But in today’s digital age, we have to work harder to keep and maintain the stories of our families and our communities. Everyone is a photographer, but the stories and communities behind our photos are being lost. Family Pictures USA strives to keep these stories alive and – by sharing them – remind us of our common roots and strengthen connections with our friends, families and neighbors.”

Read more: PBS

New PBS television show to film at Mills

Public TV show breaks out family photos for ‘people’s history’ of Detroit

“For five weeks in Detroit, a parade of more than 100 people turned out at events to show their photo albums to a camera crew. Wearing white gloves as they handled treasured family images, they relayed stories stretching back generations.”

Read more: Current

TV show collecting Detroiters’ family photos hosts finale event Friday

“Friday is your last chance to share your family photos and histories with “Family Pictures USA,” a documentary-style TV show that is filming in Detroit this summer. ”

Read more: Detroit Free Press

Family Pictures USA to Host Grand Finale Celebration

“Could your family photos help tell Detroit’s story? For the past 5 weeks, the “Family Picture USA” team has been gathering photographs and stories from Detroiters about their lives, their families, their personal Detroit history.”

Read more: Broadway World Detroit

PBS TV Crew Connecting Detroiters’ Family Photos with City’s History

“Each of us is a contributor to history… Each of our lives adds a nuance to the historical record. While not always thought of as a “historical” document, family photo albums are packed with stories from the past.”

Read more: WDET

Could your family photos help tell Detroit’s stories?

If a photo album of old family photographs could talk, the stories it could tell would be staggering. That’s the concept behind the upcoming “Family Pictures: USA” television series filming in Detroit this summer.

Read more: Detroit Free Press

New PBS Series Visits Detroit In Search of Family Photos

An upcoming PBS World Channel series is filming in Detroit for the next five weeks. It’s called “Family Pictures: USA,” and a portion of the program will focus on Detroiters’ family photos.

Read more: WDET

Family Pictures Usa Photo Sharing Event

Guests are asked to bring a selection of a dozen of their favorite photographs – digital or printed photos – and spend 10-15 minutes with the Family Pictures USA Production Team telling their Detroit story.

Read more: TimeOut Detroit

Family Pictures: USA Photo Sharing Event

What’s your Detroit story? As part of a new television series being filmed for PBS’s WORLD Channel, Family Pictures: USA will be in Detroit during June and July in partnership with the Detroit 67: Looking Back to Move Forward project.

Read more: Detroit Historical Society

Family Pictures: USA comes to Detroit

If a photo album of old family photographs could talk, the stories it could tell would be staggering. That’s the concept behind the upcoming “Family Pictures: USA” television series filming in Detroit this summer.

Read more: WMOT