This print was inspired by an incident while in college when a photography professor told Willis she “took a space from a good man” and that she was just going to end up married and pregnant so why bother taking classes? Surrounded by a supportive family and other professors who were interested in her work, she knew she could prove her original professor wrong. Willis revived some self-portraits from those earlier years and made them into a collage celebrating the life of her son, the successful artist Hank Willis Thomas. Written over the strip of images are the words “I made space for a good man.”
From the Artist:
I was an undergraduate at Philadelphia College of Art and one of my professors said to me, ‘You're taking up a good man's face, you should not be in this program. All you're going to do is get married, get pregnant, have a baby and a good man could have been in your seat. ‘I'll never forget that moment. I was so humiliated and embarrassed because this was a public event. And of course what happened? When I graduated, I got pregnant. I was embarrassed. I couldn't celebrate the fact that I was having a kid. Recently, my son [ artist Hank Willis Thomas] found a contact sheet with photographs of my pregnant belly and he said mom, ‘you never printed these.’ I remembered the story. When I realized in terms of flipping the script, was that I made space for a good man, by having my son who is a photographer. Flipping that into positive energy and still creating work.
Deborah Willis, Ph.D. is a photographer, curator, museum consultant, and scholar born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She earned a BFA in Photography from Philadelphia College of Art, an MFA in Photography from Pratt Institute in New York, an MA in...Read More