Photographic Memories

Selected Essays, Playlets, and Stories

By Willy Conley

Imprint: Gallaudet University Press
Paperback : 9781954622135, 206 pages, May 2023
Ebook : 9781954622142, 176 pages, May 2023
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This collection by writer and photographer Willy Conley is grounded in Deaf experiences and addresses critical issues at the heart of his Deaf identity.


Book Trailer



Photographic Memories is an anthology of essays, playlets, and short fiction by writer and photographer Willy Conley. The pieces in this collection are grounded in Deaf experiences, a hallmark of Conley’s work. Written from the unique perspective of a Deaf artist who navigates between the Deaf and hearing worlds, Conley depicts a variety of topics, settings, and characters: a day in the life of a traveling Deaf theater company, a nail salon, a baseball player trying to go pro. Conley also addresses critical issues at the heart of his Deaf identity, such as creating professional opportunities for Deaf theater artists, the need for better standards in sign language interpreting, and ableism.

Original photographs taken by the author accompany his writings and invite the reader to contemplate the often-blurred lines between reality and memory.


Willy Conley is an award-winning photographer, writer, and theatre artist. He is the editor of Plays of Our Own: ­An Anthology of Scripts by Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Writers, and the author of The World of White Water: Poems, Visual-Gestural Communication: A Workbook in Nonverbal Expression and Reception, Listening through the Bone: Collected Poems, The Deaf Heart: A Novel, Vignettes of the Deaf Character and Other Plays, and Broken Spokes. Conley is a retired professor and former chairperson of theatre arts at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC.



"Readers will not forget Conley’s Photographic Memories. It is sometimes a graphic look at the effects of discrimination and sometimes a complete mind-bender. It is always a unique look at the United States, Deaf, and hearing cultures with remarkable insights into both human nature and the natural world."

— Kate Champlin, Wordgathering

Advance Praise

“One line from Willy Conley’s story 'Characters in El Paso' would sum up this whole collection and the breadth of Conley’s work: 'Hearing people worldwide need to see that deaf people lead normal lives and they could even be artists on the stage'—or on film, or on the page. Conley’s creative pieces within these pages showcase his work as a playwright, essayist, short story writer, and photographer. He advocates directly in essays and by example in his own art for deaf artists to have access to platforms for their work—and for how this benefits everyone interested in the arts.”

— Tonya Stremlau, Professor, Department of English, Gallaudet University

“Willy Conley is a gifted Deaf writer, photographer, and actor who shares his memories with readers in his latest book. Conley reflects on his career beginning with his studies at NTID, where he found his identity as a Deaf person and honed his professional photography skills. Many of the stories he shares are common for Deaf and hard of hearing individuals who are educated in mainstream settings and serve as a powerful reminder that we have work to do to improve the inclusion of Deaf students in these settings. A recommended read for all who are engaged in preparing future generations of Deaf students to excel and thrive.”

— Gerard Buckley, President, National Technical Institute for the Deaf and Vice President and Dean, Rochester Institute of Technology