Remembering Our First Shoot

Billy’s friends Sandi and Audwin McGee pose for civil rights photographer Charles Moore in the first-ever Billy Reid photo shoot in 2004. Photos by Charles Moore and Robert Rausch

Remembering Our First Shoot

Friday Sep 25, 2015

Ten years ago this fall, the first Billy Reid photo shoot took place in Florence, Alabama. The photographer was none other than renowned civil rights photojournalist, the late Charles Moore. Since the budget was small and the desired look authentic, Billy asked friends and family members to model. The result was a serendipitous compendium of images that served as both the debut of the Fall 2004 collection and as beloved mementos that still resonate today, inside and outside the company.

A decade later, portraits of a stark-faced Ronnie, a local carpenter with whom Billy was friendly, decorate the walls in many of our stores, and continue to inspire Billy.

With this in mind, we asked him to share some thoughts on that photo shoot a decade ago.

Journal: Legendary civil rights photographer Charles Moore photographed the first Billy Reid collection. What was your relationship with him?

Billy Reid: Charles is an American hero and had such a kind heart. He was always positive, and working with him, and his friendship, is a memory I cherish.

J: How did he become the one to shoot the collection?

BR: I met Charles through my friend Robert Rausch. Charles had some photography vests at Robert’s studio that day - I loved them and we ended up making a journalist vest for Charles.


J: All the models were your friends and family, and all of them locals. How did you choose who you wanted to model?

BR: Through friends, family and friends of friends. The shoot was about being real - real clothes on real people. Everyone we asked to shoot said yes.

J: Your locations were all local, as well. Why did you choose them?

BR: We shot in Loretto, Tennessee; on Cypress Creek in Florence; at my house; at the Oneal house in Smithsonia, Alabama; in downtown Florence… We just roamed the area and found a variety of landscapes.


J: Tell us a little about Ronnie. What was it about his look that spoke to you?

BR: Ronnie worked on our house in 2001, when we moved to Florence. My wife thought I had lost my mind when I told her that Ronnie was modeling for us. It was unconventional, but his face told a story to me, and Robert captured him with such emotion. Some of my favorite images and work are from that shoot.


J: You recently shot the Holiday 2014 collection at Robert's studio in Tuscumbia. It must have felt like coming full-circle, to work with him like this ten years later. Did this occur to you when you chose to shoot there?

BR: We wanted to work in that stripped-down and hands-on approach on the set for our recent shoot together. It wasn't intended as an anniversary shoot, but we did realize how much we enjoy working together.

We'll be posting additional behind-the-scenes pictures from our inaugural photo shoot all this week on Instagram.