Rear View

Famed photographer Alfred Willis captured the adventurous spirit of early twentieth century Spartanburg, South Carolina

alfred willis
Indian Scout bikes, like the one pictured, where designed and build by the Indian Motorcycle Company in the early to mid-twentieth century. Wildly popular among cyclists for several decades, the 101 Scout is still considered one of the greatest motorcycles of all time.

One of the first commercial photographers in the Upstate, Alfred Willis (1880–1945) is recognized for recording Spartanburg’s past. Remembered for his jovial personality and sense of humor, Willis once claimed, “I was made with a craving for adventure.” Such daring drove him to capture fleeting moments of everyday life, whether it meant scaling a water tower or leaning out of a helicopter to capture the perfect shot. This circa 1920 photograph of an unidentified man riding his early model Indian Scout on the streets of Spartanburg reflects both the photographer’s penchant for portraits and his personal fascination with motorcycles. Today the extensive Willis Collection of prints and glass-plate negatives—including those taken by Alfred’s son, Bob, who continued to chronicle life in Spartanburg after his father’s death—are owned by the Spartanburg Herald-Journal.alfred willis