Having established himself as a successful businessman with a thriving insurance agency, Bill Morris (BBA 64) didn’t need another job. But when his two daughters were born, he picked up a camera for the first time. Thirty years later, photography has become a passion and a nearly full-time endeavor. Morris recently released Ole Miss at Oxford: A Part of Our Heart and Soul. The book is a pictorial study of the City of Oxford, the campus of Ole Miss and the people who inhabit and love them both.
The book contains more than 300 photos of fans reveling in the Grove, stately scenes from across the Ole Miss campus, historical sites from the square and other scenery in and around Oxford.
A native of Jackson, Morris is founder and president of The William Morris Group, an insurance consulting and marketing firm. He is the author of two books on disability income insurance and has authored other insurance articles in various industry periodicals. But it is his photography that moves him most. He’s self-taught, having never taken a class or formerly studied his craft. But he says that over the years he’s developed an eye for capturing a special moment and a knack for being in the right place at the right time.
“I’ve learned to see if something is fouling up the picture ahead of time,” he explained. “I can move to an angle that cuts out a stop sign or something, or if people are standing around and they’ve all got things in their hands. A lot of times I’ll make them put that stuff down because your eye always goes to what they’ve got in their hand. Doesn’t matter what it is; it’s still the same effect. It takes away from the essence of the people and focuses on that item.”
Morris says photography is also spiritual experience for him. “It awakens all of my senses to the preciousness of what’s going on around us,” he said. “Those moments really don’t come back.”
“I did this really to give back,” he added. “It’s for all of the people who have written me to thank me. This was something that I felt called to do, and in doing so I’m so blessed by these responses from people.”
His appreciation for the beauty found in Oxford and Ole Miss led him to collect thousands of photos of the area over the years. Yet despite those many photographs in his files, he still remembers the first photographs he took of Oxford.
“I got up early one morning and started going around the town and was just marveling at the shadows going across the buildings,” he said. “It was just an exhilarating feeling. I spent a great deal of that day photographing it. It has continued ever since. Any time I’m up there, I’ll have a camera with me and naturally there are things to photograph. “
Morris formed a publishing company, Heart and Soul Publications, to release the book and plans another release—this one on ‘50s and ’60s doo-wop musicians—within the next year or so.
“I was always a fan of groups like The Drifters and The Moonglows. They were really the best singers,” he said. Morris has collected photographs of musical acts in various places across the country, including the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in New York, The Pioneer Awards in Los Angeles and Symphony Hall in Boston. Morris plans to eventually donate his music photos to the University Archives & Special Collections.
Ole Miss at Oxford: A Part of Our Heart and Soul is available at Square Books in Oxford, Turnrow Books in Greenwood, Turning Pages in Natchez, Lemuria in Jackson and on the author’s Web site at http://www.heartandsoulpublications.com.