This essay develops scholarly knowledge of James E. Hinton as a unique contributor to African American filmmaking by recovering the set of his little-known, but aesthetically and historically significant, films about National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)– funded art communities (1975–1983) held at the Harvard Film Archive. Taking a cue from Hinton's proclamation that he was "the first Black director of photography in the history of North American filmmaking," I foreground some of the unprecedented, groundbreaking work he accomplished as the cinematographer for Ganja & Hess (1973) and theorize a stylistic connection between this work and the NEA films. Similar to the haptic visual style that marks the cinematographic look and feel of Ganja & Hess, Hinton's NEA films, I argue, hinge on tactile shots that disrupt traditional spectator-ship by appealing to touch and the materiality of the image as they make arguments for the utility of federally funded U.S. art communities, especially those that centralize the contributions of African Americans. In close readings of choice shots and scenes from Ganja & Hess and the NEA films, I argue for the haptic appeal of Hinton's idiosyncratic filmmaking as it records textures and surfaces that wrap around intimacies and institutions, bringing the viewer into close proximity with the subjects of his camera and delivering a palpable experience of the films that is felt in the skin.


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pp. 67-95
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