Deborah Willis | On Her Life's Work & "Picturing Us"
Dr. Deborah Willis, photographer and historian, visited the From Slavery to Freedom Lab at the FHI on the 25th anniversary of “Picturing Us: African American Identity in Photography” (The New Press, original publication 1994).
In conversation with lab co-director Dr. Jasmine Cobb, Dr. Willis reflected on her relationship to photographs and artworks, from family photographs of growing up in her mother’s beauty shop to “Sometimes I See Myself in You,” a portrait by her son, artist Hank Willis Thomas, which merges her face with his.
Dr. Willis narrated her body of work since the publication of “Picturing Us,” as she continued to explore topics of beauty, black portraiture, and photographic history. Dr. Willis called her more recent book, “Posing Beauty” (W. W. Norton & Company, 2009), “central for me.” It was “the culmination of the beginning of ‘Picturing Us,’ in thinking about ways we can look at beauty.”
Dr. Deborah Willis is University Professor and Chair of the Department of Photography & Imaging at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University and has an affiliated appointment with the College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Social & Cultural, Africana Studies, where she teaches courses on Photography & Imaging, iconicity, and cultural histories visualizing the black body, women, and gender.
Editing and color correction by Nonnie Egbuna, T'20.