Stephen Williams Gallery Talk and Q&A


Event details

Photojournalist Stephen Williams will be at the Spencer Museum of Art on March 26 and 27 to talk about his photographs and observations of Inuit life that appear in the exhibition Climate Change at the Poles. Williams, who also works as a contextual family therapist in Pennsylvania, earned his Bachelor of Science in Journalism at the University of Kansas and is eager to return to Lawrence and to interact with students.

Williams’ interest in Inuit culture began at KU when he took a film class and saw the documentary Nanook of the North, by Robert Flaherty. This film influenced Williams’ book In the Middle: The Inuit Today, which features the photographs on display in Climate Change. The Spencer will screen Nanook of the North this Thursday evening, March 12, at 7 PM in the SMA Auditorium as part of the Museum’s Climate Change Book & Film Series, a collaborative program with the Lawrence Public Library.

“The purpose of the images and book were driven by my desire to tell a story of cultural assimilation,” Williams says. “To note in writing and image a story of a culture that for 13,000 years lived at the top of the world, and to know, understand and live within an environment that is respected and feared.”

On Thursday, March 26, Williams will participate in a panel discussion about the Climate Change exhibition along with photographer Jonathan Chester, PolarTREC & CReSIS representative Brandon Gillette and Paul D. Miller (aka DJ Spooky). Participants will discuss their personal experiences at the Poles.

Williams will also lead a gallery talk about his photographs in the North Balcony of the Museum at 1 PM on Friday, March 27. This will be an interactive discussion with a question and answer session, and students are encouraged to bring portfolios of their own photography to discuss with Williams.

More from Stephen Williams: When Williams attended KU as an undergraduate student, his interest in photojournalism overtook his previous studies in social work. At age 41, Williams returned to the field and enrolled in graduate school at Temple University where he received a degree in psychology, followed with post-graduate training in strategic family therapy at the Washington Institutes in D.C.

Williams has worked as a narrative family therapist in Pennsylvania for the last 20 years. Today, both photography and therapy have equal roles in his life. “I'm comfortable working within each discipline. I make my living being a family therapist but my instinct is to make images,” Williams says.

For Williams, both disciplines have a similar focus on searching for a story and capturing the right moment: “I have a theme, a direction I've been asked to follow much like an editor. I meet the family and begin to seek out and understand the culture of that family and as time moves forward I listen to their stories. I begin to see images from those stories as well as what I see in their homes with the interplay of a person and his or her environment. At that point I look for an interruption in the rhythm of the family, which is almost always a subtle gesture, a slight movement that indicates a change. That moment passes in a fraction of a second and if I miss ‘the shot’ I haven't gotten the story.”


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