University acquires family photo collection

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Associated Press

Posted on April 14, 2014 at 2:32 PM

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — The University of North Texas has acquired hundreds of thousands of images amassed by four generations of photographers in one Fort Worth family.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram (http://bit.ly/1n5X2XN ) reports Byrd Williams IV, his father, grandfather and great-grandfather all used cameras to earn a living, document history and create art. The collection dates to the late 1800s.

The university in Denton, located about 60 miles northeast of Fort Worth, acquired the collection in recent months for an undisclosed amount. The materials are available for viewing in the reading room of the university's library.

"I think the ultimate privilege or goal of any photographer is to share that archive forward," said Byrd Williams, 62, who grew up in Fort Worth and is a professor of photography and photography history at Plano-based Collin College. He now lives in Gainesville, located about 70 miles north of Fort Worth.

He said he has been shooting photos since the age of 6.

"I have always worked where I lived," he said. "This has been my project, Fort Worth."

Morgan Gieringer, head of archives and rare books at UNT in Denton, said about 80 percent of the collection documents Fort Worth. The collection includes portraits and photographs of events and architecture.

The collection also includes photos that document other parts of Texas, including the Texas-Mexico border, where Byrd Williams II photographed soldiers fighting with Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa near El Paso in 1915.

Gieringer said the collection also tells the story of photography.

"Photography was only invented in the 1830s," she said. "The Williams collection documents the history of photography as a growing way to capture and document our culture."

The first Byrd Williams moved to Gainesville from Tennessee in the 1880s. He opened a hardware and dry goods store on the town square, selling cameras and photo supplies among other things.

The fourth Byrd Williams said he started out shooting neighbors in Fort Worth. He documented everything from childhood races and fights. Later, he took his camera to downtown Fort Worth, Europe and even behind the scenes with televangelist Jimmy Swaggart.

"I always thought I was sort of lucky," he said. "We never had money, but it seemed like this was better. We were rich in the way of cameras and film."

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Information from: Fort Worth Star-Telegram, http://www.star-telegram.com

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