Profile: Pep Williams

Pep Williams is a self-taught African-American fine art and street photographer, director, entrepreneur, philanthropist and former professional skateboarder who grew up in South Central Los Angeles, California. He has traveled globally creating material for his photographic exhibitions, which often feature real-life portraitures of heavily tattooed individuals. He is one of the only photographers to have ever been granted access into the California State Prison System where he created a series of inmate portraitures entitled, Out Of Bounds.

Williams has worked sporadically in the music industry, photographing artists such as; Chris Brown, Nick Cannon, Offset, and Suicidal Tendencies. He has been published in the magazine’s Breaks, One West, Mass Ink, Urban Ink Magazine, etc.

His images have been shown in galleries in Japan, Portugal, Brazil, and the U.S. and he is associated with charity art organizations such as The Art Of Elysium.

Life and career

Considered a third-generation Dogtown skater, Williams started skateboarding in 1975 at the age of four and through his youth was influenced by important Californian skaters of the time such as; close friend Jay Adams, Christian Hosoi, Julien Stranger, Eric Dressen, and Kareem Campbell. Pep himself went on to become a well-respected skater within the industry, appearing on a 1991 cover of Thrasher Magazine.

Being a visible skateboarder led to modeling work for his sponsors in international fashion shows and photoshoots, where Pep was often surrounded by highly talented photographers, whom he observed acutely.

Williams began working as a professional photographer in 1996 when a photographer who had been scheduled to document a fashion show that he was doing as a model was booked on another job and couldn’t attend. As the designer was desperately searching for a replacement, it was revealed that the job paid six-thousand dollars. Seizing the opportunity, Pep immediately declared to the designer, “I’m also a photographer” and was hired on the spot, even with the absence of an actual photographer’s portfolio. He made it thru that first job with the help of a skilled photographic assistant he hired to handle the technicalities, something he had observed notable photographers do innumerable times. More jobs followed, but as he came into his own a photographer he found himself rapidly tiring of the fashion world and began to focus on fine art portraiture, most of his friends; skaters, musicians, artists, drug dealers, and gang members.

Out Of Bounds

Out Of Bounds is a photographic series by Pep Williams made in the Prisons in California. He was one of a few photographers to have ever been allowed inside to shoot the inmates freely. And as a former pro skateboarder, he was allowed to bring skateboards inside the grounds and actually let the inmates skate. This had never been done before. The images from Out Of Bounds have been exhibited and lectured about at Leica Los Angeles, the University of California, Irvine and the Alberta Rose Theater in Oregon.

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