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New book features images of Robin Williams

Associated Press Associated Press 14/07/2016

Photographer Arthur Grace was on assignment for Newsweek when he met Robin Williams in 1986 at a Pittsburgh comedy club.

As he travelled with Williams to various stand-up gigs, the two became friends.

In between assignments covering the Ronald Reagan White House and other news events, Grace would stay with the actor-comedian at his home and shoot family portraits and Christmas cards for him.

Grace remembers sitting with Williams - and snapping away - during his most private moments.

"He had a private room in his house in San Francisco - like a hidden room - that was his sanctuary, his space," Grace said. "That's where he'd stay for hours."

Now, about two years after Williams' death at age 63, Grace is releasing a book featuring 190 of his photographs of the famed US entertainer that capture intimate moments onstage and at home.

Grace got to witness Williams close up, at the top of his game.

"The entire time Robin and I worked together or knew each other, he never once said to me, 'That's enough, stop taking pictures.' Or 'No, you can't shoot this or you can't shoot that.' It was amazing," Grace said.

Grace isn't sure when he took his last picture of Williams. But he remembers the last meeting, in late 2013 when Williams came to his house for dinner. By then, they were no longer photographer and subject.

"I didn't pull out the camera, even when my dog jumped him," said Grace. "We just talked about other stuff and he was funny as always, but no, the camera didn't have a place anymore.

"People have asked me: How did you happen to do this (book) now? And the answer is simple: I had always had this thought that when I was 84 and Robin was 80, that we would get together as old men, sit down somewhere for a weekend or a week in a nice place and he would reminisce," Grace said. "But that didn't happen."

Rocked by Williams' suicide, Grace initially felt paralysed.

"Maybe six, eight months later, I started thinking about the photographs that I had, and that I can't sit on them."

That's when he began planning what he calls a "legacy book" for his friend.

Robin Williams: A Singular Portrait, 1986-2002, published by Counterpoint Press, is set to be released next month.

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