USC Aiken Awarded Traveling Exhibit from the South Carolina State Library

Staff Report From Aiken CEO

Wednesday, September 11th, 2019

Thanks to the South Carolina State Library (SCSL), the Etherredge Center Main Gallery at the University of South Carolina Aiken will exhibit South Carolina's own Cecil Williams' photography in Unforgettable: Celebrating a Time of Life, Hope and Bravery Oct. 8 - Nov. 15. The exhibit is free and open to the public.

On Oct. 13, from 5 - 7 p.m., Williams, a photographer, publisher, inventor, and author, will host a gallery talk and book signing. This event is free and open to the public, but guests are asked to RSVP by going to: Cecil Williams Gallery Talk and Book Signing as refreshments will be served.

The exhibit, Unforgettable: Celebrating a Time of Life, Hope and Bravery, showcases a prelude to Williams' newest publication, Unforgettable. The collection of 40 images provides a rare glimpse of events, portraits, and moments of significant social change throughout a three-decade period. The noble subjects and pioneers captured in Williams' images depict the unforgettable waves of change that impacted the world in the 1950s, '60s and '70s.

This project is made possible with LSTA funds provided by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and administered by the SC State Library, and through the generosity of Cecil Williams.

"We are thrilled to host this compelling exhibit," said Katie Kameen, director of the Etherredge Center Gallery.

Williams, a native of Orangeburg, SC, is a professional photographer, videographer, publisher, inventor, author of six books, and architect of six residences that became his home and photography studio. In May 2006, he published a photo-documentary entitled Out of the Box in Dixie. Unforgettable, the sequel to that publication, was released a couple of years ago.

He received a degree in art from Claflin University. By the age of nine, Williams had already begun his career in photography, having fallen in love with the profession after acquiring a hand-me-down camera from his family. By 15, he was working professionally and as a freelancer for such publications as JET, the Afro-American, the Pittsburgh Courier and as a stringer for The Associated Press.

Williams' photographs have appeared in thousands of publications and featured in galleries around the country. In the 1970s, he founded and published View South News, first as a quarterly magazine and later as a newspaper. Through the small press operation of his business, he has published more than 100 books for clients throughout the South.

In 1996, he wrote, produced and directed Freedom and Justice, an 86-minute film documentary. His publication, Freedom and Justice: Four Decades of the Civil Rights Movement As Seen By a Black Photographer of the Deep South, is one of the most comprehensive sources of photographs from that era. In February 1994, Williams received a commendation from the S.C. General Assembly for the photographic exhibit Quiet Heroes. In August 1995, he was selected by the S.C. Arts Commission to participate as artist-in-residence at William A. Perry High School in Columbia.

Williams received the Presidential Citation, awarded by President Henry N. Tisdale of Claflin University, for outstanding contributions to the college and community in October 1995. He was featured as one of four civil rights photographers in a 1996 screening of Exposures of a Movement at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte. He was the featured presenter during the 2005 Martin Luther King, Jr. program at Exeter Academy in New Hampshire. Other honors include the Freedom Fighter Award, presented in 1994 by the Orangeburg Branch NAACP; Outstanding Young Men of America; Who's Who in American Colleges and Universities; and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Distinguished Service Award, presented in 2005 by Delta Zeta Lambda Chapter of Orangeburg Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc.

For more than 20 years, Williams was the official yearbook photographer for South Carolina State University, Claflin University, the South Carolina NAACP and the National Conference of Black Mayors.

Recently, Williams announced the invention of the FilmToaster, a device platform for cameras that rapidly converts film into digital. The invention has been cited by many publications including USA Today which labeled it, "From chemical to digital: Bridging the photographic divide."

He is a member of the coveted American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), and a Getty Images contributor, an honor attributed to only a select number of photographers worldwide. In January 2016, the South Carolina African American Heritage Foundation honored Williams with the prestigious Herbert A. DeCosta, Jr. Trailblazer Award, an honor previously received by Congressman James E. Clyburn, Mayor Steve Benjamin, and Judge Matthew Perry.

In addition to owning Cecil Williams Photography, LLC, Claflin University recently appointed Williams as historic preservationist. In February 2016, Williams' historic photos of the people involved in the Clarendon County Briggs vs. Elliott case were displayed in Charleston at the opening of the Dock Street Theatre, Seat of Justice, by Julian Wise, playwright founder and producer.