Named among the 100 Most Important People in Photography by American Photographer magazine, Dr. Deborah Willis is Chair and Professor of Photography and Imaging at Tisch School of the Arts, New York University, where she also has an affiliated appointment with the College of Arts and Sciences, Africana Studies. A 2005 Guggenheim and Fletcher Fellow, 2000 MacArthur Fellow, and 1996 recipient of the Anonymous Was a Woman Foundation Award, she is one of the nation's leading historians of African American photography and curators of African American culture.
Some of her notable projects include Reflections in Black: A History of Black Photographers – 1840 to the Present; A Small Nation of People: W.E.B. DuBois and African American Portraits of Progress; The Black Female Body in Photography; and Let Your Motto be Resistance. Her most recent works are Posing Beauty – African American Images from the 1890s to the Present; Michelle Obama, The First Lady in Photographs; and Black Venus 2010: They Called Her “Hottentot” (editor). Michelle Obama, The First Lady in Photographs garnered Willis the 2010 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work – Biography/Autobiography. She was also the 2010 recipient of The Society for Photographic Education's National Conference’s Honored Educator Award.
Willis is both a photographer and a scholar of the medium, actively showing her own photographs while working on various publications and books. As an exhibiting artist, her works have been included in exhibitions in the United States, Canada, Portugal and Ghana.