The University of Arizona

Center for Creative Photography

Wynn Bullock

Wynn Bullock (1902 – 1975) was born in Chicago and raised in South Pasadena, California. His early career was as a singer, and following high school he moved to New York where he performed in the chorus of Irving Berlin’s Music Box Revue and later with the show’s Road Company. During the mid-1920s, while performing in Europe, he became fascinated with artworks by Cezanne, Man Ray, and Lazlo Moholy-Nagy. Bullock once wrote, “My first ambition was to become a concert singer….But interpreting others’ creative work did not satisfy my own creative impulses and so I turned to photography.” Bullock bought a simple box camera and launched into amateur picture making.

In 1938 Bullock enrolled at the Los Angeles Art Center School. Three years later, his work was showcased in one of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's early solo photography exhibitions. During the 1940s, he conducted pioneering research to control the effect of solarization (a darkroom process for altering an image) and was awarded patents in the U.S., Canada, and Great Britain for a “Photographic Process for Producing Line Image.”

Bullock was deeply inspired by fellow photographer Edward Weston, who he met in 1948, and Weston’s work motivated him to investigate straight photography. Throughout the 1950s, Bullock clarified his unique point of view, establishing a deep, direct connection with nature. A lifelong learner, he also read widely in the areas of physics, general semantics, philosophy, psychology, Eastern religion, and art.

Bullock came into the public spotlight when Museum of Modern Art curator Edward Steichen chose two of his photographs for the 1955 Family of Man exhibition. When the exhibition was shown at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C., his photograph Let There Be Light, was voted most popular. The second, Child in Forest, became one of the exhibition’s most memorable images. By the end of that decade, his work was widely exhibited and published worldwide and in 1957, he was honored with a medal from the Salon of International Photography.

During the early 1960s, Bullock departed from the black-and-white imagery for which he was known and produced a major body of work, Color Light Abstractions, which expressed his belief that light is a great force at the heart of all being. Further image-making innovation included alternative approaches including extended time exposures, photograms, and negative printing.

During the 1960s and 1970s Bullock expanded his influence through other roles. In 1968, he became a trustee and chairman of the exhibition committee during formative years at Friends of Photography in Carmel, California. He taught advanced photography courses at Chicago’s Institute of Design during Aaron Siskind’s sabbatical and at San Francisco State College at John Gutmann’s invitation. In the last decades of his life, he lectured widely, participated in many photographic seminars and symposia, and was a guest instructor for the Ansel Adams Yosemite Workshops. Bullock died at the age of 73 in November 1975.

Along with Ansel Adams, Harry Callahan, Aaron Siskind, and Frederick Sommer, he was one of the founding photographers whose archives established the Center for Creative Photography in 1975. The Bullock collection consists of 223 prints and 90 linear feet of archival materials, including personal papers, diaries, correspondence, activity files, audio-visual and photographic materials. The archive offers significant information on the exhibition, publication, and sale of Bullock's photographs; his experiments with solarization; his involvement with the Friends of Photography; and his teaching activities. The collection offers insight into Bullock's attitudes toward his own work and the development of his philosophical approach to the medium. Copyright of Bullock material is retained by Bullock Family Photography LLC, and can be requested by contacting them at info@wynnbullockphotography.com or visiting the website www.wynnbullockphotography.com.