Winthrop University: Exhibitions to Showcase Decades of Joel Nichols’ Photographs
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Exhibitions to Showcase Decades of Joel Nichols’ Photographs

August 25, 2022

HIGHLIGHTS

  • A third-generation photographer, Nichols spent 46 years telling the Winthrop story through pictures as the university’s full-time photographer until his retirement in 2008.
  • An exhibit planned for this fall, called “Just One More…Celebrating the Life and Work of Joel Nichols,” is a way to remember the many contributions of Nichols, who passed away in December 2020. 

ROCK HILL, SOUTH CAROLINA – Photographic displays around the Winthrop University campus and in Rock Hill this fall will recognize the decades of work by former long-time university photographer Joel “Nick” Nichols.

A third-generation photographer, Nichols spent 46 years telling the Winthrop story through pictures as the university’s full-time photographer until his retirement in 2008.  His ability to capture fleeting moments in time touched generations well beyond Winthrop. 

The exhibit, called “Just One More…Celebrating the Life and Work of Joel Nichols,” is a way to remember the many contributions of Nichols, who passed away in December 2020. 

The main exhibition will be featured on campus in the Louise Pettus Archives and Special Collections beginning Sept. 16 and remaining up through the Winthrop’s Homecoming and Reunion activities in mid-November. The Pettus Archives is open Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.

During that same timeframe, several mini-exhibitions will be stationed around campus in Tillman Hall, the DiGiorgio Campus Center and Dacus Library. Three downtown Rock Hill sites – the White Home, the Arts Council of York County and the York County Library – also will display samples of Nichols’ work.

The Pettus Archives has thousands of Nichols’ negatives and prints. “Nick was a truly talented photographer, and he was a humble and kind gentleman,” said Gina Price White ‘83, director of archives and special collections. “He helped document and preserve the history of Winthrop and its students, faculty, staff, alumni and leaders. He also captured through his lens the people, places and life of the city of Rock Hill, the state of South Carolina and beyond. We loved working with Nick, and we are honored to be able to preserve his work.”

More on Joel Nichols

Nichols witnessed firsthand many significant moments in Winthrop’s history, such as the integration of African-American students in 1964 and male students in 1972, and the achievement of moving from a college to university status in 1992. 

His body of work includes many aspects of Winthrop life, from formal ceremonies to sports events to candid portraits of students or faculty members teaching. A fixture on the campus, Nichols was often seen bicycling to and from work with his camera around his neck. He also captured scenes around York County and at South Carolina beaches.

Many of Nichols’ photographs received awards over the years, including from the University Photographers Association of America.

A Greenwood, South Carolina, native, Nichols learned the tricks of the trade from his father and grandfather who were professional photographers. He graduated from Erskine College with a degree in physical education, served time in the U.S. Army as a photographer and worked for the Charlotte Observer before joining the Winthrop staff in 1962. He met his wife, Janice Williams Nichols ’63, ‘75, at Winthrop, and was always welcomed at her class reunions. The Winthrop Alumni Association surprised Nichols in 2008 with honorary alumni membership status in Janice’s Class of 1963.

Nichols has said that he liked his photographs to tell a story, to make a statement and to be natural. “I want them to be much more than a visual recording. I want them to be exciting and artistic, to have meaning beyond the straight shot, to tell a story and to be a challenge,” Nichols wrote in an artist’s statement during the 40th anniversary of his work in 2003.

For more information, contact White at 803/323-2210 or at whitegp@winthrop.edu.

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Last Updated: 8/25/22