Jonathan Williams was an American original. He was a poet, essayist, photographer, lecturer, and publisher. His non-profit, North Carolina-based Jargon Society press published well over a hundred volumes ranging from broadsides to clothbound monographs from the early 1950s and continuing through today.
It was in these volumes that Williams’ prescient eye sought to bring thoughtful, daring and experimental photography to the discerning public’s eye—by combining and juxtaposing photographs by artists such as Harry Callahan, Aaron Siskind (whom he considered a personal mentor), Frederick Sommer and Clarence John Laughlin—with equally provocative and original literature and poetry, drawing heavily from all over the country, including the nexus of creative energies at the famous Black Mountain College (N.C.). Texts for Jargon Society publications were provided by the likes of Charles Olson, Robert Creeley, Kenneth Patchen, Henry Miller, Denise Levertov, and Buckminster Fuller, among many others.
Over the years Williams functioned as supporter, publisher, critic and friend to a future who’s who of American art, poetry and literature. Besides the photographers mentioned above, he was also an early champion of artists as varied as Art Sinsabaugh, Doris Ulmann, and Ralph Eugene Meatyard. Many of Williams’ photographic choices of a half century ago today are taken for granted as textbook examples of American modernist masterpieces.
The Stephen Daiter Gallery is pleased to represent the collection of photographs that Jonathan Williams owned and lived with up to the time of his passing in March 2008.
Photographs distinguished not only by their own intrinsic qualities, but by such rich ties to pioneering artistic collaboration and literary history.