Photography - View from the Pulpit, Eatonville, FL | Artopia

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DEBORAH WILLIS

A Closer Look

Every photograph has a point of view. We see it from the position of the the photographer's eye. Deborah Willis stood in the pulpit of a small church in a little town in Florida, giving us the preacher's view of the pews. But the title of the picture tells us something more. Eatonville, Florida is the first incorporated black town in America and was the home of novelist Zora Neale Hurston. This is another way in which the photograph connects us to African American culture and history.

About the Media

Deborah Willis explores how blacks are portrayed in photographs and how they see the world through photography. She has published a number of books on African American photographers including James Van Der Zee. She often incorporates her own photographs into quilts, which she calls visual diaries. She says, "My images are used to preserve the collective memory of this society and focus on events that appear to be ordinary or horrific." In this picture a pulpit in a church, a central place in African American tradition, seems to glow like a jewel.

About the Artist

Deborah Willis took her first photographs at nine years old. They were of her family's Christmas presents -- a particular moment in the life of a black family. As an adult she has had a dual career as a photographer and historian of African American photography. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. says of her work, "Willis' gift is to bring us into each picture, inviting us to remember our own family and our own history."

Write About It

  • Make a list of what you see in the photograph.
  • How does the photographer use the elements and principles of design?
  • What is your opinion of the photograph? How does it make you feel?