Williams completed his Bachelor of Science majoring in Geology and Statistics at the University of Cape Town. For him photography was a pass time activity which had developed since his he was a teenager, but after developing intense interest he took it seriously. His first job was working as a property photographer for the Cape Times during which he also began to take freelance assignments for local magazine publications and advertising agencies. Willimas began working for Reuters in 1989 covering the transition from apartheid to ANC rule as a photographer. In 1991 he started contributing to the South African documentary collective, Afrapix. Williams later went on to become a founder member and manager of the South Photographs Agency.
William's work has made a significant transition from the intensity and violence of the eighties in South Africa, and working for Reuters at that time, to personal focus and projects. Williams explores his world through the lens with elegance, intimacy and at times dislocation. Often evident in his work is a unique enjoyment of unusual South African parodies.
Williams is a regular contributor to The New York Times, The Telegraph and Leadership Magazine. He combines this with corporate work for local and international clients. Williams' long-term projects include his study on Aids Hospices, he is currently working on a project on Aids orphans.
He eloquently captured the bittersweet drama of the last days of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange in his book "The Floor". Williams has completed his second book, "The Inner City", which explores alienation and it's consequent social malaises and unusual beauties in Johannesburg. Williams has staged 12 solo exhibitions and contributed to 30 combined exhibitions. He currently works as a freelance photographer and picture editor taking regular commissions from local and international clients.
- The Floor. Auckland Park [Johannesburg]: Purple Box, 1996. Photographs by Williams, text by David Gleason. Documenting the last year of open outcry trading in the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.
- The Inner City: Exploring isolation through life in Johannesburg. Auckland Park [Johannesburg]: Purple Box, 2000. Documenting Johannesburg and the city's struggles with adapting to a changing political atmosphere.
- Graeme Williams Photographe = Graeme Williams Photographer. Montreuil: Éditions de l'oeil, 2010. Text (in French and English) by Gary Van Wyk.
- The Edge of Town. South Africa: Cactus Press, 2008. Linden: Highveld Press, 2011.
- A City Refracted. Johannesburg: Jacana Media, 2015.
Publications with contributions by Williams
- Paul Weinberg, ed. Then & Now: Eight South African Photographers. Johannesburg: Highveld Press, 2008. Presenting work by David Goldblatt, George Hallett, Eric Miller, Cedric Nunn, Guy Tillim, Paul Weinberg, Graeme Williams, Gisèle Wulfsohn.
- Figures and Fictions: Contemporary South African Photography. Göttingen: Steidl; London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 2011. Photographs by David Goldblatt, Santu Mofokeng, Guy Tillim, Pieter Hugo, Zwelethu Mthethwa, Berni Searle, Jodi Bieber, Terry Kurgan, Zanele Muholi, Hasan and Husain Essop, Roelof van Wyk, Graeme Williams, Kudzanai Chiurai, Sabelo Mlangeni, Jo Ractliffe, Mikhael Subotzky, and Nontsikelelo Veleko.
Permanent collections held at:
2017 - Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, Florida, USA.
2016 - The North Carolina Museum of Art
2011 - The Smithsonian Institute (USA)
2009 - University of South Africa (South Africa)
2008 - Cape Town University South Africa)
2007 - Duke University (USA)
2002 - The Apartheid Museum (South Africa)
1999 - Finnish School of Photography (Helsinki, Finland)
1997 - Rotterdam Museum of Ethnology (Holland)
1994 - South African National Gallery (Cape Town, South Africa)
1992 - Oxfam and Anti-Apartheid Movement (Belgium)
- "Ivan Toms Conciencious Objector", Anti Conscription Campaign Exhibition, Cape Town, South Africa, 1988.
- "Sacred Heart House-Aids Hospice", The Market Theatre, Johannesburg, South Africa, 1990.
Solo exhibitions (selected)
2015 - Art First Gallery, London – two essays – Marking Time and As the grass grows.
2015 - Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg – A city refracted book launch and exhibition.
2013 - VU’ Galerie, Paris. A curated collection of images from bodies of work produced over 25 years.
2012 - Singapore International Photography Festival.
2012 - Noorderlicht Photography Festival. Holland.
2012 - Mois de la Photo Painting over the Present.
2011 - Kijk Gallery – Paris – Gallery opening exhibition.
2009 - The Edge of Town. Axis Gallery New York.
2008 - The Edge of Town. Artspace, Johannesburg.
2003 - Hard Ground – permanent exhibition. Commissioned by the University of Cape Town and displayed as a permanent exhibition at the Chemical Engineering Building.
2002 - Dreamtime in Breathless Spaces. Bonani Festival of Photography and Museum Africa. Johannesburg. Photographs from a collection of personal work. Photo ZA Gallery, Johannesburg
2001 - Hlabisa Portraits – Aids orphans and HIV positive children. 6th Wonca World Congress of Family Doctors. Durban.
- "Joberg City Who's City?" IDASA Exhibition, Johannesburg Art Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa, 1991.
- "Nikon/Flying Springbok Travel Photo of the Year", Second prize, Johannesburg, South Africa, 1991
- "Beyond the Handshake", Oxfam and Anti-Apartheid Movement, Brussels, Belgium, 1992.
- "A Shifting Landscape", Rotterdam Museum of Ethnology, Rotterdam, Holland, 1997.
- "Images Imaging Imagination", 100 X C Photography in South Africa, The Scan Shop, Cape Town, South Africa, 1999.
- "The Mask", 100 X C Photography in South Africa, Michaelis Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa, 1999.
- "X-Scape", Shuttle '99, Helsinki, Finland, 1999, as well as The Granary, Cape Town, South Africa, 1999.
- "The Mask" a South Photographs retrospective, Bensusan Museum of Photography, Museum Africa, Johannesburg, 1999
- A South Photographs collective exhibition, Area Gallery, Cape Town, 1999.
2018 - One of the 30 artists selected for the International Festival of Photography in Brazil ( See attached – Selection from the series: The Struggle for Democracy – 1989 to 1994).
2017 - Images from the series, As the grass grows, were included in the Louis Vuitton Foundation’s Being There, a collective exhibition showcasing contemporary South African art.
2017 - Images from the series The Struggle for Democracy – 1989 to1994 were selected for the International Festival of Photography in Brazil.
2017 - Images from the series, As the grass grows, will be included in the Louis Vuitton Foundation’s Êtra là, a collective exhibition devoted to the contemporary South African Art Scene. Paris.
2015 - A short film showcasing the essay, A city refracted, was chosen for the Rencontres de la photographie festival in Arles, France. 2015.
2014 - Selected for the Aperture Foundation Summer Open. New York.
2014 - Huis Marseille, Amsterdam. Apartheid and After – Contemporary South African Photography.
2013 - Prize for Contemporary African Photography
Exhibited at Basel Switzerland, PhotoIreland in Dublin, Ireland and Lagos Photo Festival in Lagos, Nigeria.
2012 - The International Centre of Photography (ICP) New York– The Rise and Fall of Apartheid.
2012 - The Smithsonian (New York) – Earth Matters exhibition
2011 - Dali Photography Festival in China – The Big Show portraits (Shared 1st prize Best Exhibition).
2011 - Angkor Photo Festival in Cambodia – Two Dogs series.
2011 - Figures and Fictions – Contemporary South African photography exhibition: Victoria and Albert Museum, The Edge of Town, London.Then and Now. Exhibition, book and film. Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg in South Africa, Melbourne and Brisbane in Australia, Malmo and Norrkoping in Sweden (2008 – 1010).
2017 - The Last Chief, was shortlisted in UK’s Bob’s Books Photobook competition
2017 - A city refracted was shortlisted for the Fine Art section of the Swiss Photo Award.
2016 - Diverging Dreamlines was chosen as one of four “best of show” in our 7th annual photobook exhibition – Davis Orton Gallery/ Griffin Museum of Photography.
2015 - The Europeans was shortlisted for the Arles (France) and the Kassel (Germany) and the Unseen (Holland) dummy book awards.
2013 - Winner of the Ernest Cole award for the project, A city refracted, focusing on the inner city of Johannesburg.
2013 - POPCAP ’13 Prize for Contemporary African Photography.
2011 - Dali Photography Festival in China – An exhibition showcasing four South Africans won the best exhibition award.