William Earle Williams : Party Pictures is dedicated to the artist’s acclaimed series of the same name. Williams’ insightful photographs taken in the 1970s and 80s revel in the details of a particular moment and reveal unspoken cues of class, race and gender. In PARTY PICTURES, you will find blue-blood doyennes in starched lace and society upstarts dripping with jewels alongside A-list celebrities and blue-collar wait staff. Williams employed his status as an artist to access otherwise inac- cessible social events in Philadelphia, such as highbrow charity galas, as well as counter-culture costume parties and other gatherings.
PARTY PICTURES was inspired by a 2011 exhibition of this work at The Print Center. Williams is Professor of Fine Arts and Curator of Photog- raphy at Haverford College, PA. His photographs have been exhibited at the Cleveland Museum of Art, Duke University, Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Smith College, George Eastman House and National Gallery of Art. His work is held by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York Public Library and Philadelphia Museum of Art. Williams has received fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.
PARTY PICTURES is a fascinating record of the time, touching on the history of photography, the legacy of Philadelphia and the societal changes of the late 20th C. Williams’ stunning photographs present the intersections of widely divergent communities, bound by their aspirations and foibles.
From the upper crust of Philadelphia’s Main Line society and those who served them to revelers at hair competitions, Halloween parties and art openings, PARTY PICTURES probes the inner-workings of these complex social worlds. Masked figures mingle with celebrities, includ- ing Andy Warhol, publishing magnate Walter Annenberg and Rachel Harlow — the transgender girlfriend of Grace Kelly’s brother Jack. Rich details emerge from inky black backgrounds: an expensive watch, an ill-fitting tuxedo jacket, the flounce of a chiffon ruffle, layers of makeup. Williams’ photographs capture fleeting moments in which his subjects expose their true selves through a variety of emotions from elation and ambition to boredom, exhaustion and awkwardness.
Photographs: William Earle Williams
Texts: John Caperton, Edith Newhall, Elizabeth Spungen, William Earle Williams
Hardbound with tipped-on cover image, 8 ½” x 8 ½”, 92 pages
44 black and white tritone plates 29 illustrations
Edition of 500
Special edition of 20 includes a signed gelatin silver print of Untitled, 1981/2020, 8″ x 8″
Printer: Brilliant, Exton, PA
Publisher: The Print Center, Philadelphia, PA Publication
date: February 2020
Cost of book: $65
Cost of special edition: $600