In Wynn Bullock we have the curious case of a recognized American master photographer whose work is included in over 90 major museum collections around the world, who received substantial critical acclaim during his lifetime, who published numerous books, whose name appears in all the standard histories−and who has slipped, at least temporarily, into obscurity. The time is surely ripe to rediscover and reconsider him.
Born in Chicago, Illinois on April 18, 1902, Bullock grew up in California, where his family had moved during his childhood. He came to photography a mature adult, after a successful career as a concert singer that brought him success on Broadway and the opportunity to pursue musical studies in Paris. During the course of his time in Paris in the late 1920s, he found himself inspired by the work of the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists, especially the painter Paul Cézanne, as well as by the work of the Hungarian artist/photographer László Moholy-Nagy and the American artist/photographer Man Ray. This stimulated him to buy the first of several cameras and begin to photograph avocationally.
Bullock continued his musical studies and hobbyist photography in Milan, Italy, and Berlin, Germany in 1930. Returning to the U.S. from Europe in 1931 to manage his wife’s family business matters in West Virginia during the Great Depression, he studied law for a short period. During that time, the realization that, as a vocalist, he would never be more than an interpreter of the music of others led Bullock to decide to give up his singing career. He relocated to California in 1937, entering law school once again−but only briefly. Instead, he elected to focus on a career as a photographer.