About William Carter


Los Angeles-born William Carter graduated from Stanford University in 1957. He became a professional photographer, writer and editor while concurrently pursuing fine art photography. In New York, Carter worked as a book editor for Harper & Row, 1961-63. Based in Beirut 1964-66, he published in LIFE, the London Sunday Times, Geographical Magazine and others. In 1966-69 he freelanced from London, doing assignments for such clients as The New York Times, Women’s Wear Daily, and TWA’s Annual Report.

Returning to San Francisco in 1969, William Carter turned to longer term projects. He published his first book of text and pictures, Ghost Towns of the West, in 1971. His second book, Middle West Country, appeared in 1975. Carter’s permanent love affair with New Orleans jazz led him to create his third book of text and photographs, Preservation Hall, in 1991. Increasingly absorbed in fine art photography, he began exhibiting in galleries and published Illuminations, a book of nudes, in 1996.  Carter’s fifth book, Causes and Spirits, is an autobiographical photo-appreciation of humanity worldwide, published in 2011. 

William Carter’s photographs have been widely exhibited in the U.S. and Europe.

More than 150 of his black and white prints are in the permanent collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles. A Carter nude was shown in the Getty’s concise 150-year history of that genre in 2007-2008. Four of his Middle Eastern images appeared there in Engaged Observers, a 2010 survey of photojournalism since 1960. In 2012 additional photographs from his Causes and Spirits were acquired by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, others by the Folkwang Museum in Essen, Germany, and still others (notably the cover image) by the National Gallery in Washington, D.C.


Selected Permanent Collections:

J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

National Gallery of Art, Washington

Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco

Folkwang Museum, Essen

Museum Ludwig, Cologne

Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris

Paris Audio-Visual, France

Santa Barbara Museum, California

Cantor Museum, Stanford University

Hoover Institution, Stanford University

Fogg Museum, Harvard University

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas

Rhode Island School of Design

National Museum of Photography, England

Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Portland Museum of Art, Oregon


Selected Activities:

Founding Board Member, Photo Alliance, San Francisco 2001-2004

Board Member, Humanities West, San Francisco 1996-2001

Producer and Presenter, “Lens Culture” for Humanities West, Herbst Theater, San Francisco, 2003; “New Orleans 1900,” 2000; and “Jerusalem” 1998

Conducted Photography Workshops, Germany & California 1994 - 2003

Founding Member, Photographs Council, J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 2005-present

Chairman, San Francisco Traditional Jazz Foundation, 1990-present


William Carter papers, © Stanford University Libraries. Click here for a detailed usage guide.