the artist

William Earle Williams

William Earle Williams

Vicksburg, MS

William Earle Williams

Photography allows William Earle Williams to combine documentation and interpretation of historical sites to allow viewers to see the landscape in which American and African American history was made.  In order for each of these sites to reveal their mystery and beauty, it is necessary to spend time at the sites so that the act of photographic seeing becomes an imaginative act of artistic expression.  Most of these places are invested with a history that has not been acknowledged, the challenge, therefore, is to make photographs of these mostly non-descript places which are both documentary and transcendent to reconnect them to our collective consciousness.  This way of working requires the photographer to accept his subject, value it, and be willing to accept the shortcomings of photography and his experience to produce a commensurate photograph. 

It is only by accepting this challenge and risk of failure that the making of a photograph, which documents and transcends the subject, is possible.  This act of faith in the creative process supports the creation of a photograph that re-consecrates these places with an aura of their importance through an imaginative act of visual seeing.  Williams’ goal is to transform these spaces into ones of contemplation, reflection, and remembrance through the medium of still photography, and to refute the notion that Blacks have no history worthy of study.

Fast Facts

Name: William Earle Williams


Place of Birth: Vicksburg, Mississippi

1973 – B.A.  at Hamilton College
1978 – M.F.A. at Yale University School of Art

Notable or memorable instructors or mentors:
Walker Evans, John Hill, Alan Tractenberg, Larry Fink

Particular field of study or class work:

Major influences/admired artists:
Walker Evans, Eugene Atget, Lee Friedlander, Diane Arbus, Lisette Model, Larry Fink, Helen Levitt

Favorite materials or media:
Black and white analog photography

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