Photographer Deborah Willis, Ph.D, is University Professor and Chair of the Department of Photography & Imaging at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, where she teaches courses on photography, iconicity, and cultural histories visualizing the black body, women, and gender.
Her research examines photography’s multifaceted histories, visual culture, the photographic history of Slavery and Emancipation, and contemporary women photographers and beauty. She received the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship and a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship.
Willis is the author of Posing Beauty: African American Images from the 1890s to the Present, and co-author of The Black Female Body: A Photographic History, Envisioning Emancipation: Black Americans and the End of Slavery; and Michelle Obama: The First Lady in Photographs (both titles are NAACP Image Award Winners).
Professor Willis’s curated exhibitions include: In Pursuit of Beauty: Imaging Closets in Newark and Beyond at Express Newark, Let Your Motto Be Resistance: African American Portraits at the International Center of Photography, and Reframing Beauty: Intimate Moments at Indiana University.
Since 2006, she has co-organized thematic conferences exploring imaging of the black body in the West, such as the conference titled Black Portraiture[s] which was held in Johannesburg in 2016. Professor Willis’s work has appeared in group and solo exhibitions domestically and abroad.