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A traveling photographer comes home
Zane Williams focuses on Madison in a new book


Credit:David Medaris
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With a commercial client list that includes Ameritech, the Best Western and Hilton hotel chains, Midwest Airlines and the Nature Conservancy, local photographer Zane Williams has enjoyed the travel privileges that come with far-flung assignments. He has lugged his cameras to all 50 states and four continents, to such disparate destinations as Bolivia and Burma, Cuba and Nepal.

Relaxing at home on a Sunday morning, Williams, 57, expresses appreciation for the final destination that awaits at the end of every journey. 'I still love coming back to this place,' he observes. 'What do I say in my book?' He reaches for a copy of Madison, his glossy new paperback collection of photographs, and turns to page six. 'I love to travel,' he reads. 'I love returning home. Madison has the balance of important things just about right.'

Published this month under his own Franklin Street Press imprint, Madison presents his contemporary perspective on the important things that render the city distinct from all others. In 210 photographs arrayed across 128 pages, Williams gives us his view of the Capitol Square and State Street, the UW-Madison campus and Arboretum, the city's arts, its unique storefronts and core neighborhoods, its markets and gardens, and the terraces ' Monona and Memorial Union.

Familiar subjects, but viewed through the cameras of a peripatetic photographer who says he returns from his travels 'with fresh eyes.'

Born and raised in Ladysmith, Williams came here in 1967 to enroll at the University of Wisconsin, and soon determined to stay. 'I made a decision very, very quickly, because of the friends I made here,' he remembers. 'It felt like home from the beginning.'

He has photographed his adopted home ever since taking his undergraduate degree in communication arts. His early work included a photo survey of rural Dane County historic sites, and in 2002, the University of Wisconsin Press published DoubleTake, his masterful rephotographic survey of Madison, to great acclaim.

Madison has been in gestation for about 15 years, he says. While traveling the state for Wisconsin, a hardcover collection of images that was selected as the official volume of the state sesquicentennial, 'I was thinking in terms of how to represent a state, and how to represent a city,' Williams explains. Later, during an 18-hour layover in Singapore on a return trip from Thailand, he found 'this great little book,' Exotic Asia: Singapore, in the airport bookshop. He bought a copy of the glossy photographic collection and drew on it as a model for how he might approach Madison.

'I'm really, really happy with the layout and the rhythm of the book,' says Williams, crediting Madison's designer, Georgene Pomplun, for 'a masterful job.' In some cases, a dozen images are clustered across facing pages. In others, one image fills two pages. The process of sequencing the photographs was fluid, he says. As the book neared completion, he re-shot one subject four or five times before he felt he had an optimal photograph to fit between the adjacent images.

There are, he says, 'two keynote phrases for me that underpin everything I do. That's sense of place and sense of spirit.' Both are on full display in Madison.

More about Madison

For more information, including a gallery of images and a link to the book's Web site, go here.

Listed at $22.95, Madison is available at local bookstores. For a limited time, the publisher is offering discounts for five copies or more. Phone 256-5776 or e-mail zane [at] zanewilliamsphotography [dot] com for details.

Williams is scheduled to discuss and sign copies of his book from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 16 at Star Books.

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