Byrd Williams’ "Photographs from Four Generations of a Texas Family"

It's often easy to forget the importance of photographs as a tool for documenting society. Culture is best understood with images rather than words. Words can be ignored, misinterpreted, or liable to bias. A picture is undeniable—especially when a photographer submits to the subject rather than asserts dominance over the image.

Through four generations, a shutterbug personality was cultivated into professionalism within the Byrd Williams family. Byrd IV selected from over ten thousand prints and three hundred thousand negatives of the Byrd Williams collection possessed by UNT to produce a photo book printed by the University of North Texas Press. The book includes reflections that give insight into what drove Byrd IV and his paternal line to pursue photography.

Within the text, Byrd IV describes himself as "a tourist who travels, not across space to other lands, but across time to other lives. " The relation between time and photography ought to be of high impact to the viewer. In this day and age, there's a lack of presentation without filter. Everything is viewed through a certain lens, or social filters are built up for the sake of conforming to the society we think we have to please. 

The images within the Byrd Williams collection present four generations of devoted observers. What they captured are buildings, people, and emotions that have long since passed away into the empty past. Byrd IV includes both his first and final portrait of his dad in a triptych centered by an x-ray of a skull. Everything between those two moments survives only in memory, but are remembered well as an exhausting immersion into the cruel deadlines of offering photography services. 

This book is meant for more than those who aspire to be street and fine arts photographers. Our society constantly struggles with the ongoing fight for freedom and culture. Some of these pictures are powerfully lit studio shots, while others capture moment of anger, violence, and religion in Texas. Although these are mostly documentary style, there is an artist's touch applied to photos of proud gun owners with (what I assume to be) a slow shutter speed that blurred the owner's face while leaving their guns in pristine view. There are also shots of buildings that were home to beloved businesses and events that are long gone.

If you're interested in buying "Proof: Photographs from Four Generations of a Texas Family," they are available through Barnes and Noble for $39.95.