Deborah Willis is a celebrated photographer, author, educator and scholar who earned her BFA in Photography from Philadelphia College of Art (now University of the Arts). Willis’s groundbreaking images and scholarship explore the representations and history of Black people, life and culture, with a particular emphasis on women. Willis has published 20 books, has had her work featured in dozens of exhibitions and has curated more than 40 exhibits. Willis is also the recipient of both a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship and a MacArthur Fellowship.
In 1980, she became curator of photographs and prints at the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, an internationally celebrated hub of Black history and scholarship. In 1992, Willis moved to the Smithsonian Institution’s Center for African American History and Culture, where she served as exhibitions curator until 2000. After numerous years at various institutions of higher education, Willis began serving as professor of photography and imaging in NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, where she is now department chair.