Deborah Willis

Deborah Willis

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.

Archive Exhibitions Featuring Deborah Willis

The Closet As Archive

Brooklyn Bridge Park – Emily Warren Roebling Plaza
 archive : 2019

The Closet As Archive explores the ways in which the concept of memory, beauty, and desire is essential to storytelling.

Learn More

cit.i.zen.ship: reflections on rights by teen photographers

Brooklyn Bridge Park – Emily Warren Roebling Plaza
 archive : 2018

The Department of Photography & Imaging at NYU Tisch School of the Arts, in collaboration with United Photo Industries and For Freedoms’ 50 State Initiative, presents “cit.i.zen.ship: reflections on rights by teen photographers” with photographs, collages, and videos by high school students from across the U.S. that speak directly to the current moment that students, educators, and artists alike are experiencing and responding to.

Learn More

Archive Sessions and Events Featuring Deborah Willis

Oct 22020

An Evening with The New York Times

New York Times photographers and editors will share highlights from their coverage of some of the year’s most visually compelling stories. Some of the photographers and editors who created Sources of Self-Regard: Self-Portraits From Black Photographers Reflecting on America will discuss their work.

Learn More
Sep 152019

On Feeling Good: In Conversation with Dr. Deborah Willis and Tyler Mitchell

Join Dr. Deb Willis, Chair of the Department of Photography & Imaging at New York University Tisch School of the Arts, as she interviews photographer Tyler Mitchell, New York University Tisch School of the Arts Film & Television alum. They will discuss his first solo exhibition, I Can Make You Feel Good, and their collective body of work.

Learn More
Sep 152017

A Conversation with Deb Willis & Brendan Wattenberg

In this conversation, Deborah Willis speaks with Brendan Wattenberg, managing editor of Aperture Magazine, about the iconic images central to Willis’s career, tracing themes of representation and beauty in historic archives, photojournalism, fashion, and fine art photography from the nineteenth century to the present.

Learn More

This website was made possible thanks to the generous support and partnership of Photowings