Copyright the estate of Wynn Bullock 2014; published by University of Texas Press, Austin & High Museum of Art, Atlanta
In some regards attempting to write about Wynn Bullock (b. Percy Wingfield Bullock, Chicago April 18, 1902, d. Monterey (CA) November 16, 1975) and his photography is a bit difficult for me having followed his photographic career since we moved the Pacific Coast in the early 1970’s. It seems to me that I am writing about the obvious but I realize that his photographs and diverse and creative background are a bit unknown to the current generation.
To place into context his black & white landscapes have that Brett Weston West coast appearance while his investigations into abstraction (both black & white and color), metaphysics and symbolism place him much closer to the photographic likes of Minor White. He was a friend of and knew many member of the f/64 group that birthed modern (straight) photography but he experimented in techniques and unorthodox manipulations of the photographic materials more than most of his peers. This was probably a result of living in Paris and the influence of the post-impressionist in the early 1920’s and his association with the photographers/artists Man Ray and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy.
As the book’s editor Brett Abbott states; “Ultimately Bullock was of the existentialist lineage drawn by Sartre. He (Bullock) pursued his art under the premise that an individual must live passionately and sincerely and that his experiences – including creative acts – were as important as philosophy and science in the unraveling the meaning of human existence.”
The two Bullock photographs that were selected for Edward Steichen’s “The Family of Man” exhibition the mid-1950’s were highly acclaimed and he gained international recognition as a result. He, like others in the 1960’s, struggled with the reproduction of color photographs and as a result only displayed his color experiemental work as slide shows. Fortunate for the reader, included in this retrospective is a large selection from his oeuvre “Color Light Abstraction”. His later black & white photographs are reversal prints (sometimes inverted) that are a delightful challenge to read.
As a book object this retrospective is dense with photographs and the essay’s are clear, informative and footnoted and accompanied by an illustrated chronology. The interior photographs are beautifully printed as originally conceived without the mild cropping of the early books illustrating his work, with the photographic plates having generous white margins, captions; including dates of the work accompany each photograph. Recommended.