THOUGHTS ON PHOTOGRAPHY BY WYNN BULLOCK - PART I
As long as I can remember, I have been filled with a deep desire to find a means of creatively interacting with the world, of understanding more of what is within and around me. It was not until I was 40, however, that I decided photography was my best way. When I photograph, what I'm really doing is seeking answers to things.
My pictures are never pre-visualized or planned. I feel strongly that pictures must come from contact with things at the time and place of taking. Although both intuition and reason are equally important tools that help me grow visually, the creative act itself comes from an intense, direct, one-to-one relationship between myself and whatever I photograph.
I feel all things as dynamic events, being, changing, and interacting with each other in space and time even as I photograph them.
Perceiving things spatially and temporally were experiences which profoundly affected me. All things have their own unique spatial qualities, and it is possible for us to develop our faculties of perception so we can experience and symbolize the spatial qualities and relationships of things in increasingly meaningful ways. Things [also] exist and change in time, we experience them in time, we ourselves live from moment to moment in time. Change is one of the most significant truths of the universe, and we can pursue ways of perceiving and symbolizing it that have the power to expand who we are and what we know.
It is not that I am uninterested in telling visual stories about people and their everyday live. I just like to leave this kind of work to others. What I prefer is to trace the hidden roots of humanity deeply embedded in nature.
I totally disagree with the belief that nature was only made for the use of people. Human beings are not the center of the universe, and, if they are to sustain themselves, it is vitally important for them to be awakened to how closely they are linked with the rest of nature.
The urge to create, the urge to photograph, comes in part from the deep desire to live with more integrity, to live more in peace with the world, and possibly to help others do the same.
THOUGHTS ON PHOTOGRAPHY BY WYNN BULLOCK - PART II
Mysteries lie all around us, even in the most familiar things, waiting only to be perceived.
I don't want to tell the tree or weed what it is. I want it to tell me something and through me express its meaning in nature.
Searching is everything - going beyond what you know. And the test of the search is really in the things themselves, the things you seek to understand. What is important is not what you think about them, but how they enlarge you.
I love the medium of photography for with its unique realism it gives me the power to go beyond conventional ways of seeing and understanding and say, "This is real, too."
Theoretical scientists who probe the secrets of the universe and philosophers who seek answers to existence, as well as painters such as Paul Klee who find the thoughts of scientists compatible with art, influence me far more than most photographers. My interest in such [people] is to share in their wonderment of nature and, in sharing, find added inducement to go out, look, feel, and photograph.
Growth in photography requires that the photographer continually engage in a critique of his ways of perceiving and thinking so that he may not be unconsciously ruled by them. Whenever I have found myself stuck in the ways I relate to things, I return to nature. It is my principal teacher, and I try to open my whole being to what it has to say. Although sometimes it takes my quite a while, eventually these interactions enable me to break the constricting habits I've formed and resume my work with fresh vigor.
In a photograph, if I am able to evoke not alone a feeling of the reality of the surface physical world but also a feeling of the reality of existence that lies mysteriously and invisibly beneath its surface, I feel I have succeeded. At their best, photographs as symbols not only serve to help illuminate some of the darkness of the unknown, they also serve to lessen the fears that too often accompany the journeys from the known to the unknown.
I see my work as a manifestation of positive thinking, of positive beliefs in the powers we have and can develop to create good.
Wynn Bullock (1902-1975) was born in Chicago and raised in South Pasadena, California. His boyhood passions were athletics and singing. The latter became his first career, and it was not until he was giving concerts in Europe in the mid-1920s that he became intrigued with the visual arts. He bought himself a simple camera and began taking pictures. Photography remained a hobby, however, until 1938 when he enrolled in the Los Angeles Art Center School. There he concentrated his efforts in experimental imagery. Three years later, his work was showcased in one of the early solo photography exhibitions at the L.A. County Museum of Art.
Shortly after World War II, Wynn moved his family to the Monterey Peninsula where he had obtained the photographic concession at Fort Ord. Although Wynn earned a good living as a commercial photographer, it was in his personal work that he found his greatest fulfillment.
A major turning point in Wynn's life as an artist occurred in 1948 when he met Edward Weston and was inspired to pursue new avenues of photographic exploration and expression. Throughout the decade of the 50s, Wynn devoted himself to establishing deep, direct connections with nature in and around the Central Coast of California. A lifelong learner, he also read widely in the areas of theoretical physics, General Semantics, philosophy, psychology, eastern spirituality, and art. Studying the work of such people as Albert Einstein, Lao Tzu, and Paul Klee, he kept evolving his own dynamic system of principles and concepts that both reflected and nurtured his creative journey. In the mid-1950s, two of his photographs were included in the famous Family of Man exhibition and his reputation as a master photographer spread worldwide.
Between 1959 and 1965, Wynn departed from black and white imagery and produced a body of work he referred to as "color light abstractions." For him, these photographs represented an in-depth exploration of the phenomenon of light, manifesting his belief that light is a great force at the heart of all being, "perhaps," as he said, "the most profound truth in the universe."
By the mid-60s, Wynn was ready to explore the mysteries of light and life from new perspectives. Developing the means to visually manifest the dynamic qualities of time through long time exposures and multiple images became a key aspect of his work. This was followed by a relatively brief period of imagery similar in feeling and power to the quiet essence of Haiku poetry.
At the end of the 1960s, Wynn embarked on what was to become the last leg of his creative journey. Although he included upside-down and negative printing in his repertoire of techniques, it was not their unusual effects that interested him. What was important was how they served to symbolize new ways of relating to and knowing the world. Many of his photographs from this period reveal light emanating from within the heart of things, life glowing and pulsing with energy and vitality. Other photographs are of natural forms that depict or suggest universal human qualities, humanity "deeply embedded in" and re-united with nature.
Shortly before his death in 1975, Wynn became one of the five founding artists whose archives established the University of Arizona's Center for Creative Photography. His work is also featured in the permanent collections of over ninety other institutions throughout the world as well as in three films and numerous publications.
~ Barbara Bullock-Wilson