Jessica R. Williams studies modern African art history with an emphasis on the continent's histories of photography. Her dissertation, “A Working Woman's Eye: South African Photography and the Modernist Lens of Anne Fischer, 1937-50,” examines the work that Fischer, a German-Jewish refugee to Cape Town, produced in South Africa in the decade leading up to the advent of apartheid and in England following the Afrikaner Nationalists' rise to power. Through close attention to Fischer's photographs and their circulation, her project explores how this young Weimar woman mobilized German modernist aesthetics in her new colonial context and considers how her gendered experiences of exile inflected the work she produced in post-war London.
Williams' research engages the intersections of modernist, feminist, and leftist histories and has been generously supported by the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, the Fulbright Program, the Foreign Language and Area Studies Program, and Harvard University. She is currently a curatorial fellow at the Harvard Art Museums in the Division of Modern and Contemporary Art and is based in Cape Town.