As the AIDS epidemic in New York escalated during the ‘80s, a young, out, Black producer was fighting to get information about the crisis on screen. Thomas Allen Harris, raised by activists in the Bronx and East Africa, produced a series of public television programs focused on HIV/AIDS, bringing folks who were previously ignored by mainstream media to the core of public discussion. Despite the program’s success in breaking open the narrative of the crisis, the pushback Harris received from the channel’s executives and constraints of corporate media ultimately led the artist to suspend work in public television. 28 years later, Harris draws from these resurfaced tapes and an essay he’d written at the time: “About Face: The Evolution of a Black Producer."
Commissioned in 2017 as part of ALTERNATE ENDINGS, RADICAL BEGINNINGS, a program of seven videos prioritizing Black narratives within the ongoing AIDS epidemic curated by Erin Christovale and Vivian Crockett for Visual AIDS.
About the artist
Thomas Allen Harris is an award-winning director and President of Chimpanzee Productions, Inc. a company dedicated to producing unique audio-visual experiences that illuminate the human condition and the search for identity, family and spirituality, including feature length films, performances and live multimedia productions. Harris is a prolific gay artist who has shown at the Whitney Biennial and won Guggenheim and Sundance fellowships. Harris has recently shown in the AfroPoP series produced by the National Black Programming Consortium at PBS. His personal and innovative films- Through A Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People (2014), Twelve Disciples of Nelson Mandela (2005), E Minha Cara/That’s My Face (2001), VINTAGE-Families of Value (1995) have received critical acclaim at International film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Toronto, FESPACO, Outfest, Flaherty, Cape Town and Melbourne Arts Festival. Harris lives and works in New York City, NY.
︎ Artist Statement
︎ Linda Villarosa on About Face: The Evolution of a Black Producer
︎ Watch a conversation with Thomas Allen Harris, Cheryl Dunye, and Ellen Spiro at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture