Four generations of photographers – all named Byrd Williams – documented more than 100 years of North Texas history with their work. Now, UNT Libraries has acquired their collection, consisting of over 10,000 prints and 300,000 negatives. The materials include commercial and studio photography, western landscapes, documentary studies, and fine art photography. Family correspondence, artifacts, and a collection of cameras were also donated by Byrd Williams IV.
Byrd Moore Williams owned a hardware store in Gainesville, Texas. He also sold cameras and operated a darkroom in his home. The earliest prints in the collection document the Gainesville area.
Byrd Moore Williams, Jr. (Byrd Williams II) started his photographic career in college at the University of Texas (1905-1907). One of the photos in the collection shows the young Williams in his dorm room, photo prints taped to the walls. Williams II went on to career in engineering, documenting many major projects, including the construction of the San Antonio River walk with his camera.
Byrd Williams III opened a photo service in Fort Worth. The collection contains a large number of studio prints as well as prints documenting the family’s growing interest in artistic photography. Williams III’s collection includes a significant series of prints documenting women at work in Fort Worth during the 1930s.
As a fourth generation photographer, Byrd Williams IV continued in his father’s footsteps—sometimes literally, by shooting images of the same street corners in Fort Worth 40 years later. Williams’s career has included street scenes, portraits of gun crime victims, and televangelists, among other subjects. Williams is currently a photography instructor at Collin County College and a prolific artist, exhibiting locally as well as internationally.
The Byrd Williams Family Collection is valuable for its historic subject matter as well as its artistic merit. The use of photographic processes and techniques unique to each photographer – from mammoth plate negatives to family snapshots – tell the story of the development of photography from a hobby to a career to an artistic pursuit within the Williams family.
The collection is currently being processed and will be available for research use in the near future.