Daniel Williams: A Teacher and a Father

“That was one of the reasons why I did it – to teach with her,” said Daniel Williams, Instructor in Art, who recently took up a temporary teaching position at Andover to spend more time with his daughter, Megan Paulson, Instructor in History.

Before coming to teach at Andover, Williams travelled from Ohio to Andover several times to visit his daughter and grandchildren. This year Williams is living on campus, filling in for Peg Harrigan, Instructor in Art, while she is on sabbatical.

“My main concern [about living on campus] is not to embarrass my daughter. It never changes… This isn’t the first time we taught in the same school… I used to teach at a middle school in New York, and later on she got a position there, teaching. We taught at the same school but not at the same time. But this time, we are teaching at the same school at the same time,” said Williams.

On campus, Williams lives in the furnished basement of his daughter’s house, oftentimes babysitting his grandchildren.

Paulson said in an interview with The Phillipian, “It’s really awesome. At first I was a bit nerve-racked, because I am clearly a product of my dad and sometimes I can be a little off the cuff, so I’m a little like, ‘Oh my gosh, what is he going to say?’ and would it be weird for me, would I feel like I need to take care of him, show him the ropes, those kinds of things. I was afraid that it was going to be strange, but it’s quite wonderful actually… [Unfortunately], we’re like ships in the night. He teaches in the morning, but his classes are [first, second and third periods], and mine are [third and fifth]… I really only see him in the house.”

“I’ve seen sort of a renewed passion in him, and it’s something that the Andover students have given him that I really like. It’s kind of awakened him. And now he’s like, ‘Oh! maybe I will submit some work for a show,’ for things that he hasn’t really thought of. But teaching here has really re-awakened his spirit,” Paulson continued.

Williams says he is enjoying his time teaching on the same campus as his daughter. He said he has been very impressed with the students in his photography class.

Williams said, “I am very fascinated, I have worked mostly with college-level and graduate students… I am impressed with the intellectual capacity. [Students] seem very astute, and they write very well.”

Much of Williams’s own work as a photographer has been exhibited in museums, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Smithsonian, Princeton Museum of Art and University of Kansas Spencer Museum of Art. He has been invited to be the visiting artist at universities such as the University of Delaware and the University of Kansas.

“My projects and documents have to do with the social situations of mostly African-Americans… I’ve also done Emancipation Day celebrations, rites of passage and I had the first one-person photography show in the Museum of Harlem back in 1975,” said Williams.

Paulson said, “He was never into self-promotion or anything. There’s lots of artists around like Gordon Parks and such who are much more well-known but that’s also because they were really good at promoting themselves, and my dad has a fair number of really high-profile pieces in the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Smithsonian, but he never really pushed them more or anything.”

Born in Brooklyn, NY., and educated at Brooklyn College, Williams was taught painting by Ad Reinhardt, an abstract painter known for his major influence on conceptual art, minimal art and monochrome painting. After Reinhardt’s death in 1967, the influence of Williams’s father shifted his focus to photography.

Williams worked with Walter Rosenblum, an American photographer who captured the D-Day landing at Normandy in 1944. Williams went to the West Coast to do a workshop with Bernard Freemesser, who eventually became Williams’s mentor at the University of Oregon.
“I also got in contact with Group f/64, a group of photographers whose philosophy was that photography should find its own niche and not be a substitute for painting, because early photographers imitated paintings,” said Williams.

He concluded his graduate studies at the University of Oregon, where he received a master’s degree in photography and went on to teach in colleges and work on his own artwork.

Williams has taught at Ohio University, which in 1945 became the first university to award degrees in photography. He taught at the University for 45 years before retiring.
“My philosophy is basically to teach the student to see the way the camera sees and that the artist serves as a mirror to society. We look at artists to see where we are going,” said Williams.

Williams enjoys the art of Cubism, which began with Paul Cezanne, and especially appreciates Cezanne’s “Still Life with Apples.” In addition, he is fond of Constructivism, an art movement by Russian artists in the 1920s that was based on the creation of art not for beauty, but for the analyzation of materials to further the design of functional objects.

Williams will be staying on campus to teach photography until the end of Spring Term, when he will return to his home in Ohio.