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An artist’s journey: Will Bigby ’24 on storytelling, freedom, and audience

As students were returning to campus from their winter break in January, Will Bigby ’24 was in Miami, Florida, where he joined 150 other artists aged 15 to 18 in a weeklong immersion at National YoungArts Week. Named an artist of distinction in photography, Will presented his work to peers from around the nation, took part in interdisciplinary classes and workshops in ten areas of visual and performing arts, and received mentorship from leading artists.  

Will Bigby Art Montage

Will was introduced to photography foundations as a 9th grader and began working with Visual Arts Department Chair Ricardo Rodriguez as a sophomore, who helped him develop concepts and themes. Now an AP Photography student of Mr. R’s, Will is studying the genre, honing his craft, participating in critique, and conceptualizing his images.  

Will is working on two photo projects and an independent study project, each with overlapping themes. In his independent study project with English department chair Dr. Tyke O’Brien, Will is examining fashion and masculinity as a means of self-expression and as a silent protest against oppression.  

His photo projects explore masculinity as a form of self-expression in Black culture as well as father-child relationships. Naturally lit, the photos often feature a faceless male figure and subtle juxtapositions—a pink ribbon, a bright streetlight in an otherwise dim photo, or a bright velvet durag—that compete for attention.  

“Photography does require thinking, but it's a type of thinking that comes naturally,” Will says. “I conceptualize and if I have what I need around me I'll shoot it as a mockup. Then I'll go through it, [asking] ‘what kind of change here, what kind of change there?’ I'll go another day and shoot the actual photo.”  

Will Bigby sees each photo as part of a sequence—each building on the next. “It's about storytelling,” he says. “I look at people like Gordon Parks or Tyler Mitchell. They tell stories through and about the Black experience. I have tried to be very strategic in my sequencing because I want people to go in one way [looking at my work] and come out another.”  

Will’s development as an artist can be traced through his answer to questions about audience. "Originally, I was like, I need to make art for other people. One of the panelists at YoungArts said that when you start making art for yourself, if you like it, that means somebody else who thinks like you is going to like it. In that sense, I make art for people who are about expressing themselves and ignoring pushback. I make art for people who don't want to be bound by society's perception of them. I make art for people who are unapologetically themselves.”