Bert Williams

The funniest man I ever saw, and the saddest man I ever knew.

W.C. Fields

Bert Williams, 2016

Video InstallationHD aluminum print high gloss

40 x 30 inches

Bert Austin Williams (b. 1874), was a gay Vaudeville performer of African-Caribbean descent. Bert Williams was one of the most successful performers of his era.

Because of his light complexion, Williams was forced to perform in blackface. He played to sold-out shows, but always left the theater alone, and through the ‘colored’ exit.

Williams is the subject of this body of work tilled Portrait of Bert Williams. Fancher explores Bert Williams' struggle as a gay, African-Caribbean man. In this series of photographs I am portraying Bert Williams as he faces himself in the mirror following one of his performances in blackface for a white audience.

In Portrait of Bert Williams, Fancher captures the complicated emotions this talented and intelligent performer must have felt as he sat alone in his dressing room, removing the symbols of his degradation—his blackface.