For photographer Wynn Bullock, the journey was all about the search. And a new exhibit at the de Saisset museum explores his travels.
“Even though I know I can only travel a short distance, every step in that direction is a transcendental experience,” said photographer Wynn Bullock. He loved the unique realism photography imparts to the way we see the world—and he spent a lifetime experimenting photographically on his own creative journey.
A new exhibit at SCU’s de Saisset museum explores not only Bullock’s well known images of landscapes and figures, but also his lesser known abstractions of light. Together, the photographs illustrate the artist’s ongoing journey to self-discovery and his search for a means of communicating nature’s mysteries through the printed image. “Searching is everything—going beyond what you know,” he said. “The test of the search is really the things themselves, the things you seek to understand. What is important is not what you think about them, but how they enlarge you.”
Bullock’s career had long been marked by an aptitude for experimentation and a quest for deeper understanding. He began his artistic journey as a singer—a Broadway performer and a lover of classical music—but developed an affinity for photography in his mid-twenties and ultimately chose the captured image as his primary means of creative expression. Though he was active alongside well-known California photographers Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham, and Edward Weston, Bullock’s interest in developing and working with new photographic techniques set him apart from the “straight” photography of his peers.
In the 1940s, he investigated solarization, eventually earning a patent for his distinctive process. In the 1960s, he began to work with color and light, experimenting with the elements to see how they would react and interact with one another. And toward the end of his career, in the 1970s, Bullock used techniques like negative reversals and flipped images to enhance his photographs. Yet, despite his predilection for experimentation, his fascination with light remained constant. It is as evident in the subtle tonalities of his black-and-white images as it is in the vibrancy of his color light abstractions.
“The camera is not only an extension of the eye, but of the brain. It can see sharper, farther, nearer, slower, faster than the eye. It can see by invisible light. It can see the past, present, and future. Instead of using the camera only to reproduce objects, I want to use it to make what is invisible to the eye, visible.”