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 and has an affiliated appointment with the College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Social & Cultural, Africana Studies, where she teaches courses on photography and imaging, 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, contemporary women photographers, and beauty.
Regarding the Portrait: The Photographers
In this four-part lecture series, Professor Amy Mooney examines the central role portraiture played in fostering social change in the United States from the 1890s through the 1950s. Drawing from her forthcoming book, Portraits of Noteworthy Character, Professor Mooney considers the strategic visual campaigns generated by individuals and social institutions that used the portrait to advance their progressive political ideologies. From the etiquette texts used at historically black colleges to the post cards produced by Hull House to the Harmon Foundation’s exhibition of “Portraits of Outstanding Americans of Negro Origin,” this series explores the ways in which the portrait was employed to build social relationships and negotiate modern subjectivity.
Through the advancements in technology and printing, photography becomes the most accessible form through which individuals could determine how they wanted to be seen. The burgeoning black media ensured the publication and circulation of photographic portraits, as well as the development of a modern criticality through the act of representation. In this lecture, Professor Mooney explores how, in collaboration with their patrons, African American commercial photographers generated a body politic that fostered racial equality through portraiture.