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.”

Gus Navarro/WDET

While not always thought of as a “historical” document, family photo albums are packed with stories from the past.

Sifting through family pictures, for example, allows people to connect with loved ones and interact with the past on a much more personal level. This also creates the opportunity for rich storytelling across generations.

Family Pictures USA, an upcoming television series on PBS’s World Channel, is tapping into the stories that can be told through family photo albums. The pilot episode is currently being filmed in Detroit. It will incorporate a combination of one-on-one interviews as well as public events where people are encouraged to bring photos that tell their family’s story.

Thomas Allen Harris and Don Perry, two of the show’s producers, speak with Detroit Today host Stephen Henderson about using photo albums as a way to tell stories. 

According to Perry, the concept for Family Pictures USA is rooted in taking a different look at historical narratives. 

“We’re saying that each of us is a contributor to history,” he says. “Each of our lives adds a nuance to the historical record.” 

While filming in Detroit could have been done in a few days, the shoot is taking place over multiple weeks in June and July. 

“We want to actually come in and make a major impact in the city,” says Harris. “We decided to create…seven different events. We’re doing photo shares across the city.” 

The next public event is Wednesday from 5-9 p.m. at the Detroit Association of Black Organizations. There will be another event this weekend, on Saturday from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Click on the audio player above for the full conversation. 


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