Perth local Zach Williams is one of those individuals who knew what they wanted to do more or less completely and is doing it now. It’s hard to miss at Wollongong 2022, he beats most other photographers at this event, if you haven’t seen him, a roaring giggle often announces his presence nearby.
A cycling fanatic found his love of photography to go hand in hand, when combined that with plenty of driving saw him regularly live his dream of being on the professional cycling circuit.
“It’s been something I’ve wanted to do for the past 15 years of my life, it’s always been a childhood dream, I’ve loved cycling forever,” Williams said. “Being able to go to the biggest races and shoot them, it’s a privilege before it’s a job to be honest.”
The majority of bike photographers earn their lives as freelance photographers for agencies and races, and some have more formal working relationships, but as countries and publishers change from one race to another, this is a tough world to break into and navigate.
“During the 2019 Tour Down Under, I met a few photographers from the UK – Chris Uhl and Ross Ellis – I tried to blend in with them and became buddies, and by the end of the week Chris and I were discussing how I could make it happen,” Williams said. The big races and become part of the furniture.That year he invited me to come to the Giro and cover it up, I took it with both hands.
“I covered the Giro and the Tour that year, the World Champions at Harrogate in Yorkshire and a couple of bits and other bits. I had some nice momentum in 2020, as it all dissipated because of COVID.”
After a imposed period away from the pro cycling scene, Williams is back in racing full time, and the only time he has ever been to Australia was over the summer. He is currently working with SWpix on the World Championships, providing their coverage of the UCI event. Employers vary, but Williams is steadily building an impressive resume, but this comes secondary to his enjoyment of pursuing cycling around the world.
“I would live the life of a professional cyclist without kicking my head on a bike six hours a day,” Williams said. “I can see the world – albeit for minutes at a time instead of days or weeks – and go to all the biggest bike races in the world. Combining my great passion for the sport and my love for photography is the ultimate job, one that you definitely dream of.”
A high point for Australian cycling in 2022 was a special one for Williams. Guy Hindley’s victory at the Giro d’Italia was one that would go down in the history books for Australia, but as a good friend of Hindley’s, Williams was incredibly excited and also got it wrong at the end.
“I was on the ground until stage 14 when I left for RideLondon because I had some work waiting there,” Williams said. “So, I missed him for the win, and that has kept me awake ever since.
“Jay kindly dumped the boot and teased me about it. This is something I will never do again, leave a grand tour halfway when he’s still there.”
“I was there to win the Blockhouse stage and seeing him succeed like that was just a phenomenon, he’s the stuff of dreams. He’s the most authentic guy in the sport, he deserves every success he’s going to have and he’s going to get.”
It’s a competitive field and involves long and uncomfortable hours of work and travel, and it’s not a job for everyone, but Williams offered some advice for anyone keen on cycling photography.
“Just shoot, shoot as much as you can,” Williams said. “Be a face that people know and behave in a way that you want to relate to.
“But showing up and getting started is the first thing, that’s the key, there’s no real secret. That’s the rewarding part of the job, because anybody can do it, it just basically just takes getting started.”