Picturing Us Essay

1557 Words Jun 16th, 2015 7 Pages
Lawrence Henderson Response to Willis
Personal Narratives Photography – Prof. Boddie Spring 1 2015 / April 2, 2015

Essay Response to Deborah Willis – Picturing Us Deborah Willis’ essay, Picturing Us, tackles the issues of self-representation of African-Americans in pictures. In 1955 when Debra Willis first saw the photographs in the book, The Sweetfly Paper of Life, it left an “indelible mark” on her youthful mind. (Pg. 3). It was her first time seeing “colored” people that she could relate to. Through the narratives of the photos Willis was reminded of her family and the universal pride of other African-American families. From that point onward her sense of self was
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Because he owned his photo studio he decided what images he wanted the world to see. This is an important factor in the Picturing Us essay, because it’s essentially about taking ownership and pride in our own images. Van der Zee had the resources, opportunity and talent to created historically iconic photographs that are etched in the African-American consciousness. When Willis first saw Van der Zee photos at the Metropolitan Museum of Art she experienced a sense of pride. In fact, the Van der Zee’s exhibit “Harlem on My Mind” meant so much to her that she revisited the museum five times, all this while protesters marched outside of the museum.
Van der Zee focuses mainly on two things with his photographs – the importance of family in the African-American community and the middle class. Photo 1 concentrates on the middle/upper class. This Black classy couple emanates wealth and the best that life has to offer. Both are wearing a fur coat (raccoon) and stylish hats for that time period. She has on heels and his shoes are shinny as the black car. The new Cadillac car, with the elegant hood ornament, the attached trunk, white wall tires and elite running board are the epitome of prosperity and success. It’s parked on a clean and tidy street on a block

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