What: Walking Dead: A Visual Ethnography, an exhibition of photographs from Byrd Williams IV documenting today’s culture through residents of Denton
When: Oct. 9-Nov. 13; Gallery hours are 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday; Byrd Williams IV Lecture 3 p.m. Oct. 21 (Thursday)
Where: UNT CoLab, 207 N. Elm St., Denton
To attend: Exhibition entry and events are free and open to the public.
Williams is a fourth-generation photographer continuing his family’s legacy of documenting more than a century of North Texas area history with their work.
For Walking Dead, Williams spent the last three years photographing the residents of Denton in a quest to create a historical record of today's culture.
“My original intent was to stay one year and work on an anthropological photographic project comparing 19th-century, Civil War-era clothed humans to 21st-century people in everyday coverings,” Williams said. “The COVID-19 pandemic expanded the timeline and scope of the project to include more than 300 subjects photographed over three years.”
Approximately 150 portraits from that series, along with artifacts and photos from the family’s archive, will be on display at the UNT CoLab on the Denton Square.
The photos are decidedly not art, Williams said. Captured with antique, large format cameras from the Williams family archival collection, the mesmerizing and raw photos in the series document a place and time through its people for future historians to study.
“I used an enormous 20-inch wooden plate camera for maximum detail and printed everything on gold chloride material for maximum longevity, which will last 800 years as opposed to digital inkjet’s life of 150 years,” Williams said.
Following the exhibition’s run, the Walking Dead series will be donated to the Byrd Williams Family Photography Collection in the UNT Special Collections. The collection includes more than 10,000 prints and 300,000 negatives of the family’s work as well as cameras, family correspondence and other artifacts. Through a $75,000 grant from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, UNT Special Collections has been working to digitize this collection, already adding more than 6,000 images to The Portal to Texas History.
Copies of Williams’ book, Proof: Photographs from Four Generations of a Texas Family, will be on sale throughout the exhibition at the UNT CoLab.
There also is a feature documentary film about the family’s photographic legacy, including UNT Special Collections’ work to preserve it through the collection. Proof, directed and produced by Mark Birnbaum, will be screened Nov. 11 at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth as part of the Lone Star Film Festival.