Michael Williams

Michael Williams was born in 1965 and raised in Chicago and the northwest suburbs. He earned a degree in Communications from Loyola University of Chicago in 1987. After working as a freelance writer, researcher, and designer he began a creative collaboration with author Richard Cahan in 2004. Together they have produced over 20 books, often taking on difficult subjects, such as slavery (River of Blood), the incarceration of Japanese Americans (Un-American) and the devastating effects of World War II (Aftershock). Other projects tackle discoveries of lost photographic collections, including the images left behind by Vivian Maier (Vivian Maier: Out of the Shadows and Eye to Eye), the documentation of the reversal of the Chicago River (The Lost Panoramas) the life’s work of architectural photographer Richard Nickel (Richard Nickel’s Chicago and Dangerous Years) and the archive of civil rights photographer Ernest Withers (Revolution in Black and White). Based on these books, Booklist magazine’s Donna Seaman called them “the eloquent archival sleuthing duo.”

Williams’ projects have often been adapted to other mediums, and expanded his role of writer to include curation and exhibit design. These projects include “The Lost Panoramas: Chicago and the Illinois Valley a Century Ago” (2010) at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, “Vivian Maier’s Chicago” (2014) at the Chicago History Museum, “Then They Came for Me: The Incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II” (2017) at the Alphawood Gallery in Chicago and International Center for Photography in New York City and “Millions of Moments: The Chicago Sun-Times Photo Collection” (2021) at the Chicago History Museum.

Williams’ most recent work is Lost in America: Photographing the Last Days of our Architectural Treasures published in 2023. Using the little-known but remarkable archive created by the Historic American Building Survey (HABS), a Works Progress Administration project that still documents the nation’s most important buildings today, Lost in America focuses on 100 historically significant buildings that have been torn down over the past 90 years.

Michael Williams

BA 1987

TitleAuthorRoleYear Of Publication
Lost in America: Photographing the Last Days of Our Architectural Treasures2023
Richard Nickel’s Chicago, Photographs Of A Lost City author2006
Chicago: City on the Moveauthor2007
Edgar Miller and the Handmade Home: Chicago’s Forgotten Renaissance Manauthor2009
Lost Panoramas: When Chicago Changed its River and the Land Beyond  author2011
Vivian Maier: Out of the ShadowsAuthor2011
Eye to Eye: Photographs by Vivian Maierauthor2014
Monroe Building: A Chicago Masterpiece Rediscoveredauthor2014
Richard Nickel Dangerous Years: What He Saw and What He WroteAuthor2015
Un-American: The Incarceration of Japanese Americans During World War IIAuthor2015
Revolution in Black and White: Photographs of the Civil Rights Era by Ernest C. WithersAuthor2018
River of Blood: American Slavery from the People Who Lived ItAuthor2019
Chicago Exposed: Defining Moments from the Chicago Sun-Times Photo ArchiveAuthor2021
Lost in America: Photographing the Last Days of our Architectural TreasuresAuthor2023
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