New York-based architecture and lifestyle photographer Tim Williams specializes in photography of the built, man-made environment. He has a deep appreciation for architecture and a passion for photography, both of which have allowed him to develop a critical eye for composition and lighting.
Recently, as a result of Hurricane Sandy and its disastrous and deadly aftermath, Williams had ample opportunity to use these photographic skills to great effect on a journey of work he will never forget. While sitting in his own Long Beach, NY apartment and watching news coverage of the storm, he was alerted that the storm had breached the boardwalk near his home and water was coming up the street. Within 10 minutes, the water traveled the five blocks to his house and within no time was pouring through his front door and coming under the foundation walls. He had lost all power and with nothing other than a camping lantern packed his photography gear, computers and lighting equipment while trying to decide on an escape route and a way to save his belongings. He decided to break out the living room window and waded through thigh- deep water to his upstairs neighbor carrying his computers, camera cases, and lighting gear through the rising water in 70+mph winds to safety. With only minutes to spare, he saved his camera equipment, managed to pack some clothing, and waited out the storm to see what fate had in store for him.
Two days later, he got a call to work. Tide Loads of Hope contacted him to see if he would be able to travel to New Jersey to photograph their team that had set up on the Jersey shore to help those in need. Clean clothing, something we all take for granted under normal circumstances, was now of the utmost importance to all these people left homeless and without their possessions. Set up was in Eatontown, New Jersey and then after several days the Tide Loads of Hope truck mobilized one last time and went to Island Park, New York, this time setting up less than a mile from Williams' Long Beach home.
Williams had worked with Proctor and Gamble before and their Public Relations agency, Devries Public Relations. Over the past year, he traveled with them on several shoots for other P&G brands and became friendly with some of the account teams within Devries and P&G. “They are really a great group, when I was finally able to check my email I had messages from several of them that knew where I lived checking to see if I was OK” says Williams.
When the decision was made to mobilize the Tide Loads of Hope truck, Tim was recommended to the Loads of Hope team by the other brands who knew his work. His team from Devries included Erin Serrano and Ali LaFleur, and he had a friend and coworker, Craig Bonheur of Guerilla Video, who helped put video footage together for the Tide assignment. With his own narrow escape and the loss of his home, Williams was so appreciative of the Devries group reaching out to him and being able to do this kind of community work for them.
“My main goal in photographing this campaign was to show the destruction of the storm, the need for help, and ultimately [the] way Tide was able to put a smile on someone’s face by giving them some clean clothes to wear,” says Williams. He wanted to show the despair in the faces of those who came and the sense of hope, even if ever so slight, when they realized that they were not going through this destruction alone. They told their stories to each other while being able to walk away with a smile and a bag full of fresh clean clothes. We all know there is nothing that feels as good as the wonderful, fresh smell of clean laundry and having clean clothes to wear.
For him, the most difficult part of the job was knowing exactly what all these people were going though and feeling. “I, myself was in pretty desperate need of a hot shower and some clean clothes. I almost brought some clothes with me to the shoot, and although they insisted I should, I decided not to,” he adds. The focus he felt had to be on these people, helping them and capturing their faces and their appreciation for the Tide Loads of Hope.
Williams even saw some friends waiting on line and on more than one occasion people came over to give him a hug and see how he was doing. “You hear about these disasters on the news and see the images, but never imag[ine] you will see it in your own backyard. I am proud to say that it is a strong community and although it still looks like a war zone, people are smiling and hopeful,” says Williams.
The images for the Tide Loads of Hope have already been used on their social media sites and will be used to show their community outreach. Williams also shared the images with the American Red Cross on the scene.
Never in his wildest dreams did Williams imagine that he would see his own friends and neighbors coming together and waiting on line just to be able to wash the few clothes they had left to them. He is very proud to be part of the Tide Loads of Hope program and so grateful they gave him the opportunity to do this work. For a little while, he was able to escape reality by giving back and doing what he loves most.
Hurricane Sandy has been a life-changing experience for Williams, one that he will never forget. He is still on his own journey of recovery, but he is ready to work. Please see more of Tim Williams’ work at his site, www.timwilliamsphoto.com, and by all means, give him a call.
© Tim Williams
Tim Williams’ apartment was destroyed by several feet of ocean water and raw sewage that had backed up through the showers and drains of Long Beach, as the treatment plant went under water and stopped working. With his truck under three feet of water and ultimately totaled he walked through his town to see only what can be described as a war zone. With nowhere to go and no way to contact anyone, he returned to his apartment to begin the long cleanup and salvage what he could. Tim was fortunate enough to save his computer, photography gear and lighting equipment. He is now living day by day, with no real place to call home. After several days of checking on friends and packing whatever he was able to save, he moved to his family's house and from there will decide on his next move. His family and friends and belongings are safe, he is now ready to try to get back to a normal life and do what he loves most, pick up his camera and go to work. Tim is hopeful that he will be able to move back to Long Beach shortly after the New Year.