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    LGBTQ Photographer Has Chronicled Joe Biden’s Career Since 1973

    William “Bill” F. Wilson is a familiar presence in San Francisco, and especially the Castro. Like Rink of the San Francisco Bay Times, he is a renowned photojournalist who has been working in the city for decades. Most of the time, as he writes, he is “documenting, with photographs, the LGBT struggle for civil rights and other events.”

    He has also been documenting the career of President-elect Joe Biden since 1973. From D.C. to San Francisco, Wilson was there with his camera to capture the moments. As Wilson shared with us, he is looking forward to viewing the presidential inaugural later this month.

    “I don’t know where I will be on January 20 at 12 pm Eastern time, but I know what I’ll be doing,” Wilson told the Bay Times. “I will be watching as Joseph R. Biden, Jr., is being sworn in as our 46th President of the United States. I have no doubt that there will be tears of joy streaming down my cheeks.”

    He explained: “The reason for those tears will not just be the relief that nearly 80 million of us will feel at the official end of the nightmare that the four years of Trump have been. They won’t come just because I realize that President Biden will probably be the last president during my lifetime who is older than me on the day they assume the presidency.”

    “All of those facts will be part of the emotion of the day,” he continued, “but what will stand out most for me is that Joe Biden is someone I have known since when he first came to the Senate in 1973. The photos I have taken of him span 48 years—from Senator to Vice President and now President-elect.”

    His work in photographing Biden had a fortuitous start, and perhaps evidences why it helps to forge friendships with neighbors.

    Wilson said, “I became good friends with his personal secretary. We lived in the same apartment building for a time. She would tease me that she should get a 10% agents fee for all the times she alerted me to events I photographed. One such event was a reception that Senator and Mrs. Hollings hosted for Senator and Dr. Biden when they were married in 1977.”

    The moment solidified his already growing archive of Biden images, and he has continued to document the President-elect’s career ever since.

    The Bay Times thanks Wilson for sharing a selection of his Biden images with us at this pre-inaugural time. When, as president, Biden next visits San Francisco, we can only hope that Wilson can be in the press corps nearby yet again, marking his nearly five decades of work covering this dedicated soon-to-be leader of our nation.

    For more information about Wilson: https://billwilsonphotos.com/


    Biden Photographer Says President-elect ‘Touched My Soul’

    By William F. Wilson–

    To some of those reading this, it might seem ancient history and it is. But it is my history and my explanation of why this vote is so important to me. I was born in 1950—which means I grew up in the 1950s when TV was a new medium, Jim Crow still existed in law as well as practice, and sexual matters were not considered a topic of polite conversation. It was quite easy for me to believe that I was the only gay person in the world because it was never mentioned or shown and I was never good at reading between the lines or figuring what that smirk was supposed to imply.

    The 1960s were like an explosion that rocked the very foundations of society, or so it seemed, and I found myself becoming aware that my feelings for people of the same sex weren’t the ones that society expected me to have. Going to college in Oregon for a year before transferring to the University of Utah meant that I was able to be on my own to discover what my path should be independent of family pressures.

    When I graduated from the University of Utah in 1972, I got a job working in Washington, D.C., for Senator Gaylord Nelson as a clerical assistant. I was still very firmly in the closet. I wasn’t even admitting to myself that I was gay, although gradually through exposure to gay newspapers and experiencing meeting other gay people I found my self-denial crumbling.

    This sounds so pathetic when I recount it now, but I truly believed that if people looked into my eyes, they would know I was gay. So, for many years, I would walk down the street or in the hallways of the Senate Buildings with my head down not looking at anyone in the eye. I can tell you the exact spot in the hallway of the basement of the Russell Senate Office Buildings where I was when I realized I could lift my head up and not be afraid to look people in the eye.

    When Joe Biden was elected senator, he hired one of my co-workers to be on his staff. I discovered that Biden’s secretary lived in the same apartment building that I lived in. We became good friends and she encouraged me to take photos of the Senator. He signed one of those photos for me writing, “You have been a great help to us and a fine friend.” I remember at the time thinking if Senator Biden knew my secret—that I was gay—would he have been willing to call me a friend? That photo was signed in 1977. I didn’t come out until 1983.

    To make this writing an essay and not a book, I am going to fast forward a bit to 2014. During a speech to the Human Rights Campaign, then Vice President Biden spoke of his father telling him that everyone should be treated equally with dignity. I happened upon a transcript of the speech when someone shared a link to it on their Facebook page. As I read the speech, the tears just started streaming down my face. Reading his description of what his father said to him and the kind of example his father set for him, I realized those many years later, that the answer to my question, “Would he have still called me friend?” was yes. He would have still called me friend.

    So, when President-elect Biden described the recent election as the battle for the soul of the nation, I knew that he was right. There was only one candidate who literally touched my soul and I was very proud to cast my vote for Biden.

    William “Bill” F. Wilson is a San Francisco-based photographer focusing on LGBT and civil rights-related events. He has been photographing President-elect Joe Biden for nearly five decades.

    Published on January 14, 2021