2008-05-09 / Society

Bill Helms

By Brent Breedin

Shandon born and reared photographer Bill Helms died May 2, 2008, in his Manhattan home at age 81, a month shy of the 65th anniversary of his 1943 graduation from Dreher High School. His death was also a few months shy of the 64th anniversary of his being the youngest combat photographer in the Navy aboard the U.S.S. Yorktown. This was a few weeks after he turned 18 in the fall of 1944, a year following his enlistment in 1943.

Bill's photographic career began at Hand Junior High where one of his pictures took first place in a contest. At Dreher High he was a Blue Print photographer for three years and took pictures of every senior in the spring of 1943 for the school's first yearbook, which was actually a photo supplement to the Blue Print. This in turn led to a full- time summer job with Charles Old Studio on Main Street, which led to Navy Photographers' School, the Yorktown, considerable action in the South Pacific, and participation in the occupation of Japan.

Upon discharge from the Navy, Helms attended Colgate University (NY), where he also served as school photographer and had his first exhibit, before receiving his Bachelor of Professional Arts degree from Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles in 1951.

Bill had his own studio in Los Angeles in the 1950s and 1960s prior to setting up shop in New York City, where he added to his reputation as a leader in food, interior design, and travel photography.

His editorial work was featured in House & Garden, House Beautiful, Metropolitan Home, Better Homes and Gardens, the New York Times Entertaining Magazines, Los Angeles Magazine, and Los Angeles Times special sections. His book credits include Time-Life Foods of the World series and Metropolitan Home's The New American Cuisine.

Beginning about the time Bill returned to Columbia for the 50th anniversary of his Dreher High graduation in June 1993, he became attracted to digital photography. Five years later, at his 55th anniversary, he actually showed off some of his new work. In January 2000, the Richland County Public Library's Wachovia Gallery became the site of the premier exhibit of his Fine Art Digitals (FADS).

In the remaining months of 2000 and 2001, this exhibit of 40- plus FADS, sponsored by Friends of South Carolina Libraries (FOSCL), was viewed by thousands of readers (and viewers) in the libraries of Hartsville, Georgetown, Lexington, Myrtle Beach, Greer, Spartanburg, Anderson, and Beaufort.

Since 2004, this unique exhibit has been on loan to the South Carolina State Museum as one of its traveling exhibits and available for showing at locations throughout the state. In recent years, Bill has been preparing for publication two books: one about his experience using the computer and appropriate software to combine new and vintage photography into art combinations that tReelfll escttoioriness (FADS) and , a book that focuses on his digital photography of the buildings of Manhattan.

Bill's father was the late Rev. F. Clyde Helms, pastor at Shandon Baptist Church for 35 years and at Beaufort's First Baptist Church for a decade before that. Survivors include his stepmother Kate Helms of Charlottesville, Va, whose 100th birthday he recently helped celebrate, his wife Carol, daughters Cherie and Erica, and sons- in- law Ken Perkins and Andrew Krause.

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