Profile: Willie Middlebrook (1957-2012)

Willie Robert Middlebrook, Jr. was an American photographer, artist and strong advocate for the African-American community in Los Angeles. He received many honors during his lifetime, including two Visual Artist Fellowships in photography from the National Endowment for the Arts, and many commissions for public works including the Los Angeles Metro Expo/Crenshaw Station.

In 1960 his family moved to Greater Los Angeles.

With two degrees, an Associate of Arts degree in Art / Photography from Compton Community College and a Certificate in Design from the Communicative Arts Academy, his legacy includes teaching at many institutions from Watts Towers Arts Center to the California State University Los Angeles as well as being on the advisory committee for the Photography Department at his amla mater, Compton Community College.

The social activism and outreach he made to the Greater Los Angeles community was honored many times, including being awarded a City of Los Angeles Individual Artist Fellowship grant from the Department of Cultural Affairs in 2009. This was after over 20 years of awards and acknowledgment including three commendations from the Los Angeles City Council for his photography, and being named a “Hometown Hero” by the City of Compton. His influence reached much further than Los Angeles from his work being shown nationally in gallery settings, to his work as a director for the Society for Photographic Education. He even did a stint as a photographer for Time Magazine, having images of the African-American struggle in Los Angeles, mostly published in the European Editions.

As a fine artist, he is best known for his works photographing the African-American people and communities in greater Los Angeles with dignity and respect. He is also well known for his photographic printing techniques, where he has painted photographic emulsion thickly, in a dripping fashion on surfaces, and then exposing this photosensitive material to make a print. He would do this in multiple layers. Later he moved to more digital processes, to achieve his multi-layered effects.

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