Deborah Willis joins ICP for the conclusion of the week-long series The Rules Are Broken: A Year in Imagemaking. In this keynote lecture, Willis will discuss her recent book Black Civil War Soldier: A Visual History of Conflict and Citizenship, highlighting the importance of images in (re)telling stories of resilience and collective struggle and how remembrance can inform our present positions, encouraging us to write new ways to envision fresh utopias for the future of photography.

Purchase Black Civil War Soldier at ICP’s shop.

Ticketing Information

ICP members receive free and expanded access to The Rules are Broken: A Year in Imagemaking, in addition to many other exclusive benefits. Become a member today: icp.org/membership.​

Current members will receive an email to register. For questions, contact [email protected]

About Black Civil War Soldier: A Visual History of Conflict and Citizenship by Deborah Wilis

Though both the Union and Confederate armies excluded African American men from their initial calls to arms, many of the men who eventually served were black. Simultaneously, photography culture blossomed—marking the Civil War as the first conflict to be extensively documented through photographs. In The Black Civil War Soldier, Deborah Willis explores the crucial role of photography in (re)telling and shaping African American narratives of the Civil War, pulling from a dynamic visual archive that has largely gone unacknowledged.

With over seventy images, The Black Civil War Soldier contains a huge breadth of primary and archival materials, many of which are rarely reproduced. The photographs are supplemented with handwritten captions, letters, and other personal materials; Willis not only dives into the lives of black Union soldiers, but also includes stories of other African Americans involved with the struggle—from left-behind family members to female spies. Willis thus compiles a captivating memoir of photographs and words and examines them together to address themes of love and longing; responsibility and fear; commitment and patriotism; and—most predominantly—African American resilience.

About the Rules are Broken: A Year in Imagemaking

The Rules are Broken: A Year in Imagemaking is a weeklong series dedicated to exploring critical issues and their impact on imagemaking. This year’s event focuses on the COVID-19 pandemic, protests against police brutality and marches in support of Black lives, photobooks and place-making, and the impact of 2020 on the future of imagemaking. See the full schedule of events and get your ticket to the event series to attend this talk.

About the Program Format

All programs will take place on Zoom. Those who register to attend will receive a confirmation email with a Zoom link located at the bottom of the email under “Important Information.” The Zoom link can be used to join the programs through a computer or mobile device.

We recommend participants download the Zoom app on their device prior to the program. Learn how to download the latest version of Zoom to your computer or mobile device.

If you have questions about the online program or do not receive the confirmation email, please contact: [email protected]

Speaker Bio

Deborah Willis is an artist, author and curator Deb Willis's art and pioneering research has focused on cultural histories envisioning the black body, women and gender. She is a celebrated photographer, acclaimed historian of photography, MacArthur and Guggenheim Fellow, and University Professor and Chair of the Department of Photography & Imaging at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. Willis received the NAACP Image Award in 2014 for her co-authored book Envisioning Emancipation: Black Americans and the End of Slavery (with Barbara Krauthamer) and in 2015 for the documentary Through a Lens Darkly, inspired by her book Reflections in Black: A History of Black Photographers 1840 to the Present.

Image: Tintype of a Civil War soldier. His buttons and belt buckle are hand-colored in gold paint. The hand-coloring on the buckle reads backward “SU,” which when considered that the image is reversed, reads “US,” the traditional inscription on Union Civil War belt buckles. (Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift from the Liljenquist Family Collection, 2011.51.12)