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“Partnering” by Jean Oelwang

Tangible lessons from 65+ of the world's most remarkable partnerships.


Family and artists, united by love and art to change the world

Deborah Willis and Hank Willis Thomas


Deborah Willis is a photographer, writer and professor at NYU, as well as a curator and coordinator of exhibitions. She has enjoyed a decades-long collaboration with her son Hank Thomas, an acclaimed photographer and conceptual artist, whose work features themes of race and the human condition. 

“One of the things that I think has connected the two of us, but also I would say all of our family members, is the love of community and love of building community. That everyone was always welcome within the doors of my grandmother’s house, my parent’s house, my cousins’ and family’s house.”

Hank Willis Thomas

“We have to get up in the morning. We have to be a part of participating in life. In a society that’s difficult, we have to participate. So we talk about that as ways of the struggle of get up and go to school in the morning. The experience where, you know, he’s a listener.”

Deborah Willis

“We have a great sense of humor and I think that that’s the point, that we understand each other in an amazing way where the responsibility that was instilled in me as a child to contribute, and to contribute in many ways; make sure you had a job, make sure you respect people, to have a voice; that kind of experience where it’s something that we struggle with.”

Hank Willis Thomas

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