Zac Williams from Perth is one of those people who pretty much knew what they wanted to do all their life and are now doing it. Hard to miss at Wollongong 2022, towering over most other photographers at the event, when you’re not seeing him a loud, ringing laugh often announces his presence nearby.
The cycling fanatic found that his love of photography went hand in hand and when he combined that with a zest for action, he lived his dream of becoming a regular in professional cycling.
“It was something I wanted to do for the last 15 years of my life, it was always a childhood dream, I’ve always loved cycling,” Williams said. “To be honest it’s a privilege to go to the biggest races and photograph them before it’s a job.”
The majority of cycling photographers make their living as freelancers for agencies and races, others have more formal jobs, but with countries and publishers moving from race to race it’s a difficult world to penetrate and navigate.
“During the 2019 Tour Down Under I met a couple of photographers from the UK – Chris Auld and Russ Ellis namely – I tried to integrate with them and become friends and by the end of the week Chris and I were discussing how I could do it,” Williams said. “He said, ‘You have to show up, do the big races and become part of the furniture. That year he invited me to come to the Giro and cover it, and I took it with both hands.
“I’ve covered the Giro and the Tour this year, the World Champions at Harrogate in Yorkshire and a few other bits and pieces. I had a nice momentum in 2020 where everything unraveled because of COVID.”
After a forced stint away from the pro cycling scene, Williams was back racing full-time, the only time he was back in Australia was during the summer. He is currently working with SWpix at the World Championships and providing their coverage of the event for the UCI. Employers vary but Williams is constantly building an impressive resume, but that is secondary to his enjoyment of following cycling around the world.
“I can live the life of a professional motorcyclist without having to bang my head on the bike six hours a day,” Williams said. “I will see the world – albeit by the minute rather than days or weeks – and go to all the biggest bike races in the world. Combining the two passions of my overwhelming love of sports and my love of photography is the ultimate job, the dream job for sure.”
A highlight for Australian cycling in 2022 was a special one for Williams personally. Jai Hindley’s victory at the Giro d’Italia was one that will go down in history for Australia, but as a good friend of Hindley’s, Williams was both incredibly excited and disappointed that he missed the finish.
“I was down until stage 14 when I left for RideLondon because there was a lot to do there,” said Williams. “So I missed his win, it has kept me up many nights since.
“Jai kindly sank the boot and teased me about it. That’s something I’ll never do again, leaving a Grand Tour halfway through if he’s still there.
“I was there for the Blockhaus stage win and to see him succeed was just phenomenal, it’s the stuff of dreams. He is the most sincere guy in the sport, he deserves every achievement he has received and will receive.
It’s a competitive field and involves long and uncomfortable hours of work and travel, not a job for everyone, but Williams has some advice for anyone interested in cycling photography.
“Just shoot, shoot as much as you can,” Williams said. “Be a face that people know and act in a way that makes you want to identify with it.
“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 anyone can do it, you just have to basically start.”