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Detail from Carla Williams’ 1986 Bachelor of Arts thesis exhibition at Princeton University.

October 11–December 9

Carla Williams: Circa 1985

at Higher Pictures Generation

Higher Pictures restages Carla Williams’ Princeton University Bachelor of Arts thesis exhibition from 1986. The seventy-two intensely personal self-portraits included here were made between 1984 and 1986, two years after Williams began studying photography at age 17. Her professor Emmet Gowin called it the best thesis show in his thirty-six years of teaching. Only a handful of the works have since been exhibited or published. This is the artist’s first exhibition with the gallery.

Williams’ images are at once tender and wise, awkward and exhilarating. They reflect a young woman’s burgeoning sexuality and expansive curiosity about the medium. As a Black woman processing a canonical history that positioned so many models, girlfriends, and wives as muses to their photographic ‘masters,’ Williams did not see herself reflected in any of the history books’ most revered images. She was nevertheless absorbing a classic, timeless aesthetic of female representation.

Her photographs were made using mostly Polaroid 4 x 5 and instant 35mm film formats. The immediacy of results allowed her to interact with the images at the time of the sitting rather than wait for the darkroom process, lending both an energy and technical looseness to the photographic finish. The images reflect Williams’ creative urgency, her desire to render the likeness in the moment. It would become a signature style in her work.

As a child of Hollywood, Los Angeles native Williams grew up with her own portfolio of head shots. She consumed the culture of performance, observing, mimicking, and fantasizing about the reality and representation of adult life, another role, another costume. Aged out of acting by her teen years, Williams would ultimately find her creative refuge on both sides of the camera.

The proliferation of selfie-culture in the last decade has compelled Williams to reflect on the populism and popularity of contemporary technologies and self-representation.

“A lot of my influence at the time was popular culture, so it felt like the right time to see the images in the context of the present and to fill in another important piece of Black women’s contributions to the medium.”

Williams received her BA in photography from Princeton University and her MA and MFA from the University of New Mexico. She spent the next decades working independently as a photography historian, writer, and editor. She has occasionally participated in publications and exhibitions, but never pursued a creative career.

Higher Pictures Generation

16 Main Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201 United States

Open: Mon (By Appt.); Tues–Sat, 11 AM–6 PM

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Nearby

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1. Opening Reception

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March 7, 6:00 PM–8:00 PM

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2. Opening Reception

Opening Reception: This Time Tomorrow + Soap Opera

March 7, 6:00 PM–8:00 PM

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3. Open Studios

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March 7, 6:00 PM–8:00 PM

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4. Closing Reception, Performance

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March 10, 4:00 PM–6:00 PM

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5. Opening Reception

Opening Reception: New Exhibitions at A.I.R.

March 16, 6:00 PM–8:00 PM

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Open: Wed–Sun, 12–6 PM

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6. Performance, Special Event, Workshop

Performance: Singing to Sculpture: VOID

March 24, 1:00 PM–2:00 PM

A.I.R. Gallery

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7. Exhibitions

Nicholas Galanin: In every language there is Land / En cada lengua hay una Tierra

May 16 2023–March 10 2024

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Open: 6 AM–1 AM; Special Hours for Pier 2/5/6, Squibb Park & Bridge, Education Center, & Playgrounds

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Springs Projects

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11. Exhibitions

Jeff Wallace: de-cipher.

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Main Window

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12. Exhibitions

ACRYLICS: Hidden Sculptural Art

February 10–March 10

A.I.R. Gallery

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13. Exhibitions

The Faraway Nearby

February 10–March 10

A.I.R. Gallery

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14. Exhibitions

Mo Kong: Swift Island Chain

February 10–April 14

Smack Mellon

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15. Exhibitions

Sunny Leerasanthanah: This is as far as I can take you

February 10–April 14

Smack Mellon

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16. Exhibitions

Kinetic Kaleidoscopic Shadows & Paintings

February 12–March 17

Superfine

Open: Tues, 2–10 PM; Wed–Sat, 12–10 PM; Sun, 11 AM–10 PM

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18. Exhibitions

Sylvia Netzer: Goddesses + Emaciation

February 14–March 10

A.I.R. Gallery

Open: Wed–Sun, 12–6 PM

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19. Exhibitions

Christoph Niemann: Photo Graphics

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Open: Tues–Sat, 11 AM–5 PM

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20. Exhibitions

Xinyi Liu: Scab

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Cuban Art Space

Open: Wed–Sat, 12–6 PM; Sun–Tues By Appt.

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22. Exhibitions

Eli Craven: Soap Opera

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Klompching Gallery

Open: Wed–Sat, 11 AM–6 PM

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24. Exhibitions

A Matter of Time

March 7–April 6

Platform Project Space

Open: Fri–Sat, 12–6 PM

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25. Exhibitions

David van Dartel: This Time Tomorrow

March 7–April 27

Klompching Gallery

Open: Wed–Sat, 11 AM–6 PM

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26. Exhibitions, Special Event

Closing Soon

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March 7, 6:00 PM–8:00 PM

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27. Exhibitions

Yvonne Shortt: Shedding My Toxic Core

March 16–April 14

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Allison Halter: THRESHOLD

March 16–April 14

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First Thursday Gallery Walk

The first Thursday of every month, the galleries of DUMBO stay open late, hosting special events and receptions. Neighborhood restaurants and bars have specials for First Thursday patrons.

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