Field of Vision: Deborah Willis - Critical Narratives in Visualizing the Black Body in Photography and Popular Culture

Deborah Willis. Photo by Alice Proujansky

Field of Vision: Deborah Willis - Critical Narratives in Visualizing the Black Body in Photography and Popular Culture

September 29,
2:00PM to 4:00PM

This event will be held in The Commons, 4th Floor, 401 Richmond Street West. 

Images of the black subject, whether artistic, documentary, or anthropological, are forever fixed in the popular imagination through photography. From the medium’s beginning, race and gender have shaped and controlled the reception of photographic portraits, both politically and aesthetically. Black American photographers  responded to their own lives and their communities in similar ways since the 1840. Some evoked an emotional message that went beyond the self-representation but connected in the re-characterization of the African American experience. The photographers coupled the aspirations and dreams of their subjects with their own. Since the 1930a, black photographers working all over the diaspora are responding to social issues that take them beyond the sometimes-insular photographic community. They comment on politics, culture, family, and history from internal and external points of view. 

This lecture will  mediate between the objectification of the black body and (re) presenting the black body as it connects to the photographs by black photographers working from 1930 to the present who are actively involved in changing the course of photo history and fundamentally imaging the black in Western art. 

The talk will be followed by a Q & A, in conversation with Julie Crooks

Deborah Willis, Ph.D, is University Professor and Chair of the Department of Photography & Imaging at New York University/Tisch and has an affiliated appointment in Africana Studies. Professor Willis was a 2014 Richard D. Cohen Fellow of African and African American Art History at the Hutchins Center, Harvard University, a 2005 Guggenheim Fellow and Fletcher Fellow, and a 2000 MacArthur Fellow. Professor Willis has received the NAACP Image Award in 2014 for her co-authored book  “Envisioning Emancipation.”   Other notable projects include “The Black Female Body A Photographic History”;  “Reflections in Black: A History of Black Photographers - 1840 to the Present;”  “Posing Beauty: African American Images from the 1890s to the Present;” “Michelle Obama: The First Lady in Photographs,” a NAACP Image Award Literature Winner, and “Black Venus 2010: They Called Her ‘Hottentot.’”

Field of Vision is Gallery 44’s thematic public programming series exploring the larger conversations surrounding photography and contemporary image culture. Taking a variety of forms – performance lectures, artist talks, readings, dinner parties, film screenings – each programming year explores a theme and its relevance to contemporary image making practices and dialogues.

This year's theme, Representation and Visibility, looks at how photography, as a mode of self-address, can act as a marker of perseverance and a tool to confront structural inequalities.

Presented in partnership with the Consulate General of the United States, Toronto, Canada.


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