Reece T. Williams’ photography reveals soft and intimate stories about his subjects
In a traditional street photography style, the New York-based photographer lenses familial histories and narratives of his local community.
- Ayla Angelos
- 14 October 2021
Reece T. Williams is somewhat of a polymath when it comes to image-making. Drawn in by a number of different creative outlets, he cites audio-only storytelling as his preferred media – “I love learning about fashion, I love poetry,” he tells It’s Nice That. “Visual storytelling actually doesn’t always come as easily to me, compared to some of my friends who are also photographers.” Yet despite his doubts about his chosen profession, Reece manages to harness the power of visual art and proceeds to tell impactful narratives through his work. He analyses traditions, rituals and art forms through a collective of mostly stark, black and white documentary photographs – plus the odd mix of portraiture, editorial and fashion.
Based in New York, Reece grew up in Greenburgh, a town in Westchester County. A few prominent Black Americans have owned houses there, including Madame C.J Walter, Gordon Parks and the comedian Moms Mabely. “As I’ve learned more about the history of this place,” he adds, “I’ve become prouder and prouder to be from here.” As time went on, Reece decided to pursue journalism at Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY, where he focused on arts and culture reporting. Only a slight turn away from what he does now, it wasn’t until graduation that he started making his own imagery. He, therefore, went on to work as a print journalist and a podcaster, before realising his true love of the image and finally landing on his role as a photojournalist and photographer.
Reece’s portfolio, then, is littered with a variety of works that each has its own story to tell. Recently he published a piece named Leisure in Bed-Stuy, commissioned by Soho House UK – it paints a portrait of leisure in Brooklyn to accompany an essay by Glynn Pogue. He’s also documented the Black Lives Matter movement for Gatopardo Magazine; the annual J’ouvert celebration in Brooklyn – which marks the start of the carnival in a series titled Black blood in we vain; a portrait of an urban, contemporary megachurch in Brooklyn; plus an ongoing collection of photos capturing short walks around Melville in Long Island.
“I’m inspired by my familial history and the histories of people groups,” he continues to explain. “I’m inspired by learning about the things cultures share, oftentimes despite natural physical barriers.” This enables Reece to turn an analytical and inquisitive lens onto his subject matter, whether that’s through a portrait series or an honest and revealing snapshot of his neighbourhood. It might sound simple but, when coupled with Reece’s love of all mediums and his considered compositions and technical use of light, his stories are elevated. “I’m inspired by other art forms – I’m often thinking about music as I’m photographing, humming to myself on the street,” he adds.
It’s while strolling the streets that it all comes to life for Reece. He’s greatly inspired and enjoys working in the traditional street photography manner, meaning that he walks aplenty and, resultantly, does a lot of waiting. “I try to anticipate things when I can, but there’s a lot of just trying to be ready when I see something – ready so that I don’t miss the moment,” he shares. “I don’t really ever rush though. Right now, I’m like, if I can’t make something I think will be good, then I don’t make the image. I kind of file it away in the ‘be ready for that next time’ chamber of my memory, and I keep it moving.”
Although a long and enduring process, Reece’s portfolio proves that patience really does pay off. For instance, a recent image shows a subject that he ran into on the street, donning a fur-lined jacket and brimming with confidence. “This brother was so fly, beautiful and soft,” adds Reece. “He saw me setting up to make a photo of him as I walked by and gave me a subtle smile. This moment brightened my whole day.” Another depicts a couple in a sweet embrace, the light protruding through the side of the lens and giving it an almost dreamlike, romantic quality. “This is actually an early photo of mine, but it will always be one of my favourites,” he says, explaining how the piece is currently being exhibited at Unit London until early November. “I can still hear the music from this night.”
There are many stories and histories to be uncovered throughout Reece’s photography, both the personal and the more universal. A snapshot of a moment, time or place, his imagery has the power to provoke a response from his audience – especially when it comes to learning more about the people he features. “I want the viewers of my work to be inspired to get to know their neighbours,” he concludes. “To be curious about the people they share spaces with. I want folks to find the people in the photographs beautiful, soft and interesting.”
GalleryReece T. Williams (Copyright © Reece T. Williams, 2021)
Reece T. Williams (Copyright © Reece T. Williams, 2021)
About the Author
Ayla was an editorial assistant back in June 2017 and has continued to work with us on a freelance basis. She has spent the last seven years as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.