Prince, Björk and Goldfrapp – just some of the pop culture icons that William Rice worked with as one of the heads of London’s biggest music PR firms.
But after Rice’s mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer and his father with dementia in 2015, he decided it was time to take a break from the industry and hit the road. “It was a difficult and reflective period, which made me re-consider how I was living. I’d had the same job for the previous 10 years and felt the time had come to make some life changes and pause to reflect,” he says.
His famous music clients were also the ones to provide him with inspiration for his adventure: “I’d watched how they never repeated themselves in their work, always challenged themselves in new ways, continually learnt new things and didn’t care about convention, commerce or what the industry thought.”
For Rice, the general work culture in London was also pretty unhealthy and reason to keep things moving. “I’d been frustrated by the structure of our working lives in the UK,” he explains. “The expectation to work all your life until you’re deemed to be too old to be useful and just as your body and mind give out you are allowed time off to yourself in retirement. My mother’s death made me think about how short life is and about how limited opportunities are to live the life you really want.”
He bought a camera at the airport on his way out of London as a simple means of documenting his travels, but “ended up completely falling in love with photography as a means of helping me understand myself and life and all the stuff I was going through and thinking about.”
Rice’s earlier shots were darker – photos he’d taken in a wintry Chernobyl, at various holocaust centres (The Killing Fields, Auschwitz) and of dead animals and trees reflected his mood. “I was feeling pretty dark in general at that point,” he says. After dealing with his mother’s passing last year, 2017 has seen much more contentment – and you can see it in his work. “I think the happier and more colourful aspect of these pictures is a reflection of coming through a difficult time and into a much more optimistic and happier time.”
This exuberant series comes from a road trip that took in South Africa, Namibia, Rwanda and Kenya. “I want to show a positive and authentic representation of the continent as an alternative to the images of fetishised exoticism, war and famine that some of the mainstream media and charity industries have focused on over the past two to three decades,” he says. “I also hope to show that from a traveller’s perspective Africa offers a hugely diverse and rewarding experience.”