Photographs > Progeny

Our children, our visions, our understandings of our place in society, history, and in the room, all must be communicated to be community. They are there because of us, and yet as soon as they are born they are a potential collaborator in a hopeful walk through expansive futures. If we try to understand where things come from and demand honest investigation with the gait of our presence, then we will be a part of creating the future.

The photograph has long been used as an instrument of memory. Deborah Willis is a mother, photographer, educator, and curator. She has used photography to explore stories about family life. As a mother of a photographer, she found it both inspiring and amusing that her son, Hank Willis Thomas, also uses photography to critique stories about family events, however tragic or comedic. They use memory, text, and images to relive family tales and phrases from the “oral archive” of folk culture and transform them into contemporary images exploring the nuances of memory.

By doing this they show us how we look, using voices we’ve never imagined, conjuring scars we’ve never suffered. And we can grow, and we can change, and the exchange can create new wings. Together we can fly to new heights, where we can see more. And so art can help us see ourselves, by making us see something else. It’s hard to keep moving, especially without knowing where you are going. But if you are always asking where you came from, and channeling who you are into your art, you will have an opportunity to share the moments, the memories, and begin to re-imagine the future. Deborah Willis and Hank Willis Thomas’ work expounds on the notion of understanding humanity. Wise and energetic, the work invigorates the intimacy of personal history as it echoes through body and thought, gaining strength as it creates new life. These works connect to new perspectives and personal vulnerabilities which grow into a collective strength. By Burt Ritchie