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Deborah Willis, a 2005 Guggenheim Fellow and Fletcher Fellow and a 2000 MacArthur Fellow, has received an Infinity Award in Writing from the International Center for Photography and was recently named among the “100 Most Important People in Photography” by American Photography magazine. She is chair of the Department of Photography & Imaging at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University.
She has been the curator of photographs at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library and the exhibitions curator at the Center for African American History and Culture of the Smithsonian Institution. Among her curated exhibitions are Posing Beauty, 1968: Then and Now, Engulfed by Katrina: Photographs Before and After the Storm, and Reflections in Black. Exhibitions of Willis’s own photographs include Progeny, A Sense of Place, Regarding Beauty, Embracing Eatonville, and Re/Righting History: Counternarratives by Contemporary African-American Artists.
Willis is also the author of Envisioning Emancipation: Black Americans and the End of Slavery, with Barbara Krauthamer (Temple, 2013); Black Venus 2010: They Called Her “Hottentot”; Posing Beauty: African American Images from the 1890s to the Present; Obama: The Historic Campaign in Photographs; The Black Female Body: A Photographic History; A Small Nation of People: W.E.B. DuBois and the Photographs from the Paris Exposition; Reflections in Black: A History of Black Photographers; Picturing Us: African American Identity in Photography; and VanDerZee, among others.
Deborah Willis’s first book, Picturing Us: African American Identity in Photography (The New Press, 1996), which won the International Center for Photography’s 1995 Award for Best Writing on Photography