Dr. Deborah Willis

Dr. Deborah Willis

 Deborah Willis, Ph.D., is University Professor and Chair of the Department of Photography & Imaging at Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. She has affiliated appointments with the College of Arts and Sciences, the Department of Social & Cultural Analysis and the Institute of Fine Arts, where she teaches courses on Photography & Imaging, iconicity, and cultural histories visualizing the black body, women, and gender. She is the director of NYU’s Center for Black Visual Culture/Institute of African American Affairs.

She is the author of The Black Civil War Soldier: A Visual History of Conflict and Citizenship and Posing Beauty: African American Images from the 1890s to the Present, among others. Dr. Willis’ curated exhibitions include: “Framing Moments” in the Kalamazoo Institute of the Arts, and “Free as They Want to Be: Artists Committed to Memory” at FotoFocus.

Dr. Willis was awarded the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship and was a Richard D. Cohen Fellow in African and African American Art at the Hutchins Center at Harvard University, a John Simon Guggenheim Fellow, and an Alphonse Fletcher Jr. Fellow. She was the Robert Mapplethorpe Photographer in Residence of the American Academy in Rome and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She is a recipient of the Don Tyson Prize for the Advancement of American Art by the Crystal Bridges Museum in 2022, was named the Mary Lucille Dauray Artist-in-Residence by the Norton Museum of Art, and taught her Master Class titled Home, Reimagining Interiority at Anderson Ranch in 2023.

Archive Exhibitions Featuring Dr. Deborah Willis


Brooklyn Bridge Park – Emily Warren Roebling Plaza

Home Reimaginings explores how we see/interpret concepts of home.

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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.

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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.

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Archive Sessions and Events Featuring Dr. Deborah Willis

Jun 152024

MFON Global Symposium: Presence & Preservation

The one-day symposium will include a series of panel discussions, featuring scholars, artists, curators and centered around archiving and elevating the voices of women and non-binary of photographers of African descent, as part of Photoville’s annual Festival in New York City.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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