John McWilliams, a renowned photographer, was born in July 1941 in Pittsfield, Maine. He received his BFA and MFA degrees from the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, and afterward traveled to the South in search of inspiration for his photography. In 1969 he began teaching photography at Georgia State University (GSU) in Atlanta, eventually becoming director of the GSU School of Art and Design. During his tenure, McWilliams also served on the Fulton County Arts Council and as a board member for Nexus (later the Atlanta Contemporary Arts Center, cofounded by Steven Foster) and the Atlanta Photography Group.
Among the numerous accolades McWilliams has received are the Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship and the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in photography. His work is represented in the collections of the Modern Museum of Art in New York City and the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. In 1989 McWilliams published Land of Deepest Shade: Photographs of the South, a book of seventy black-and-white images, in collaboration with the Aperture Foundation and the High Museum of Art in Atlanta.
After retiring from GSU, McWilliams moved to McClellanville, South Carolina, where he continues his work in photography, as well as in relief printmaking and drawing. His photographs Alabama, Ireland ’78, and Washington County, Georgia, are part of Georgia’s State Art Collection.