New YouTube Series from The WNET Group and PBS Digital Studios to Explore American History Through Iconic Photographs
The Bigger Picture, hosted by Harvard University historian Dr. Vincent Brown, to premiere new episodes bi-weekly beginning August 9 on the PBS YouTube channel
(New York, August 1, 2022) – The WNET Group and PBS Digital Studios have announced The Bigger Picture, a new digital series exploring American history through iconic photographs that have defined national culture and identity. The series, hosted by Harvard University historian Dr. Vincent Brown, will launch on the PBS YouTube channel on Tuesday, August 9, 2022, and will release new episodes every other week.
Through conversations with activist and scholar Angela Y. Davis, photographers including Andre D. Wagner and Thomas E. Franklin, and other experts, Dr. Brown immerses audiences in the cultural and historical moments in which seven historic images were created, offering fresh insight into their making, meaning and significance.
“I’m thrilled to take part in a project that shows how the meaning of pictures has never been instantaneous, even in the social media age,” said Dr. Vincent Brown. “The Bigger Picture explores the incredible backstories of well-known images, inviting audiences to engage in media literacy in a new way.”
“The WNET Group is a leader in developing and producing quality, engaging and thought-provoking content for PBS,” said Stephanie Carter, executive producer of The Bigger Picture. “We are excited to partner with PBS Digital Studios to bring that same mission to this compelling digital-first series.”
The first seven episodes of the Bigger Picture include:
Episode 1, “Image is Everything”
Premieres August 9, 2022
Photograph: “Portrait of Abraham Lincoln,” Mathew Brady, 1860
Can the spectacle of modern politics today—the 24-hour news cycle, carefully orchestrated photo ops, the reliance on polling—be traced back to a photograph of Abraham Lincoln taken during the presidential election in 1860? In the first episode of The Bigger Picture, host Vincent Brown reveals the specific choices made by Lincoln and renowned portrait photographer Mathew Brady when producing this image, in hopes of casting the candidate as presidential.
Episode 2, “We live with what happens next”
Premieres August 23, 2022
Photograph: “The Blue Marble,” NASA, 1972
How exactly did the “Blue Marble,” as it is now known, come to be? Host Vincent Brown learns just how extraordinary a technical feat it was for Apollo 17 astronauts to snap the photograph in 1972, and how early environmentalists hoped that an image of the whole Earth might spark a desire to protect our planet.
Episode 3, “The Hero Shot”
Premieres September 6, 2022
Photograph: Raising the Flag at Ground Zero, Thomas E. Franklin, 2001
How does a single image become “iconic”? And when it does, will its meaning change? Host Vincent Brown explores these questions as he focuses on one of the most well-known photos from September 11, 2001: “Raising the Flag at Ground Zero.” He meets photographer Thomas E. Franklin, who shares his account of that confusing and catastrophic day, the instant he captured the heroism of the firefighters, and the experience of watching his work become a cultural phenomenon.
Episode 4, ‘“We aren’t here to preserve anything. We’re here to live it”’
Premieres September 20, 2022
Photograph: “Mountain Chief, Listening to Recording with Ethnologist, Frances Densmore,” 1916
In this exploration of the “myth of the disappearing Indian,” host Vincent Brown interrogates the most common assumption about a photograph with ethnographer Frances Densmore and Piegan Blackfeet tribe leader Mountain Chief: that Densmore is recording a “dying culture.” Host Vincent Brown visits the Library of Congress to hear an original wax cylinder recording of Mountain Chief and travels to Browning, Montana, where Blackfeet artist and teacher Jesse DesRosier demonstrates the deep connections Native Americans still feel today with their ancestors.
Episode 5, “This Land is Our Land”
Premieres October 4, 2022
Photograph: “The Steerage,” Alfred Stieglitz, 1907
Alfred Stieglitz’s iconic photograph “The Steerage” is often used to illustrate the American immigrant experience. Through conversations with curators and historians, host Vincent Brown discovers that there is much more to the image than meets the eye and invites viewers to reconsider common assumptions about immigration to the U.S. in the early 20th century.
Episode 6, “Enemy of the State, Woman of the People”
Premieres October 18, 2022
Photograph: “Angela Y. Davis, Wanted by the FBI,” 1970
How did the creation of a poster by the FBI, intended to make a criminal out of activist and academic Angela Y. Davis, end up transforming her into a powerful symbol of Black Power and a popular struggle for liberation? Host Vincent Brown considers the FBI’s actions, the impact of Davis’s image and the ways in which style can be used as a form of political activism. Professor Davis also shares her own complicated feelings about seeing her image take on a life of its own, and how her thinking about it has changed over the past 50 years.
Episode 7, “The Camera as a Weapon”
Premieres November 1, 2022
Photograph: “American Gothic,” Gordon Parks, 1942
Moved by the racial segregation he experienced living in Washington, D.C., pioneering photographer Gordon Parks was determined to capture the inequalities he witnessed. With Ella Watson, a local cleaner who posed with her mop and broom in front of the American flag, Parks created what can be seen as a searing indictment of domestic racial politics during World War II. Host Vincent Brown discusses Parks’ motivation for taking the photo, how he worked with Watson, and the beginnings of his philosophy that the camera could be used “as a weapon.” Contemporary photographer Andre D. Wagner then shows Brown his own work and shares the lasting impact Parks has had on him and the field of photography.
The Bigger Picture is a co-production of Timestamp Media LLC and The WNET Group, in association with Harvard University’s History Design Studio at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, and Vision Maker Media. Executive producers are Graham Judd and Dr. Vincent Brown for Timestamp Media, and Stephanie Carter for The WNET Group. Stephen Segaller is executive-in-charge for The WNET Group.
Major funding for The Bigger Picture was provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Additional funding was provided by the Anderson Family Charitable Fund, the Tamara L. Harris Foundation, the William Talbott Hillman Foundation, the Philip and Edith Leonian Foundation and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Funding for the nationwide broadcast of The Bigger Picture was provided in part by the Drue and H.J. Heinz II Charitable Trust (broadcast fundraising is currently in process).
Additional funding for the digital production of The Bigger Picture was provided by Chasing the Dream – a public media initiative from The WNET Group, reporting on poverty, opportunity, and justice in America, and supported by The JPB Foundation, The Peter G. Peterson and Joan Ganz Cooney Fund and Sue and Edgar Wachenheim, III.
For The Bigger Picture:
About The WNET Group
The WNET Group creates inspiring media content and meaningful experiences for diverse audiences nationwide. It is the community-supported home of New York’s THIRTEEN – America’s flagship PBS station – WLIW21, THIRTEEN PBSKids, WLIW World and Create; NJ PBS, New Jersey’s statewide public television network; Long Island’s only NPR station WLIW-FM; ALL ARTS, the arts and culture media provider; and newsroom NJ Spotlight News. Through these channels and streaming platforms, The WNET Group brings arts, culture, education, news, documentary, entertainment and DIY programming to more than five million viewers each month. The WNET Group’s award-winning productions include signature PBS series Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, PBS NewsHour Weekend and Amanpour and Company and trusted local news programs MetroFocus and NJ Spotlight News with Briana Vannozzi. Inspiring curiosity and nurturing dreams, The WNET Group’s award-winning Kids’ Media and Education team produces the PBS KIDS series Cyberchase, interactive Mission US history games, and resources for families, teachers and caregivers. A leading nonprofit public media producer for nearly 60 years, The WNET Group presents and distributes content that fosters lifelong learning, including multiplatform initiatives addressing poverty, jobs, economic opportunity, social justice, understanding and the environment. Through Passport, station members can stream new and archival programming anytime, anywhere. The WNET Group represents the best in public media. Join us.
About PBS Digital Studios
PBS Digital Studios produces original, digital programming designed to engage, enlighten, and entertain online audiences. The PBS Digital Studios network has more than 30 million subscribers on YouTube, generating an average of 50 million views per month, with a total of 3.6 billion lifetime views. Digital Studios has published over 70 original series, including 26 series from PBS member stations. Series include the Webby Award-winning BE SMART and CRASH COURSE, as well as popular series such as TWO CENTS, EONS and PBS SPACE TIME.