Listen to an interview on the podcast New Books in Photography with
Byrd M. Williams IV, author of Proof: Photographs from Four Generations
of a Texas Family.
The Byrd Williams Collection at the University of North Texas contains
more than 10,000 prints and 300,000 negatives, accumulated by four
generations of Texas photographers, all named Byrd Moore Williams.
Beginning in the 1880s in Gainesville, the four Byrds photographed
customers in their studios, urban landscapes, crime scenes, Pancho
Villa’s soldiers, televangelists, and whatever aroused their
unpredictable and wide-ranging curiosity. When Byrd IV sat down to
choose a selection from this dizzying array, he came face to face with
the nature of mortality and memory, his own and his family’s. In some
cases these photos are the only evidence remaining that someone lived
and breathed on this earth.
The 193 photos selected here are organized into thematic sections such
as “Landscapes,” “Violence and Religion,” and “Darkness.” They are
significant not just for the range of subjects, but for the inclusion of
a variety of examples of the evolving photographic technology from the
1880s to the present. This book is an unprecedented portrait of both
photographic history and the history of Texas, as well as a record of
one unique family.
“The primary audience for this book will be photographers, historians,
genealogists, and those who seriously study the human condition. Byrd
Williams IV reveals within four of the Williams’ family generations, an
interesting dichotomy found in the photographic practices of the
commercial and fine arts worlds.” —–O. Rufus Lovett, photographer