Jack Welpott
(b. 1923)


Jack Welpott is one of the great photographers and teachers of the post-World War II generation. In 1988 the critic Joan Murray wrote,

Welpott has produced a powerful body of work over a lifetime in photography. Major recognition of his work, however, always seems to have eluded him. As I looked at the individual images in this exhibition, I wondered if it is possible that his problem is that he does too much too well. There are formal landscapes that rival those of any of the major landscape artists.*

Jack Welpott was born in Kansas City, KS, on April 27, 1923 and was educated at primary and secondary schools in Missouri, Illinois and Indiana. He learned photography from watching his uncle in the darkroom when he was a nine, and began taking "serious" pictures by the time he was twelve.

In 1949, he earned his BS in Economics from the University of Indiana, Bloomington. He studied photography under Henry Homes Smith, painting under Leon Golub and Harry Engle, and design with George Rickey and received his MS in Visual Communication in 1955. Jack completed his MFA in photography and painting in1959 and began a thirty-year teaching career at San Francisco State University as he pursued his career as a professional photographer.

Welpott enjoyed the challenges presented by working with available light, and his mastery of the black-and-white medium enabled him to work expressively in a wide variety of conditions. Of darkroom work, he said, "I firmly believe that if you want to do the very best work possible, you have to take responsibility for the whole process-front to back." In his artist statement, he further articulated his relationship to b&w photography:

I like the process. The way in which it holds together opposites: light and dark, beautiful and ugly, sublime and banal. To make a photograph as honestly as one can generates artifacts that bear witness to ones personal truth. I like the way it locks you into the moment, the eternal present. Sometimes there is the physical sensation of light. The world becomes luminous. You get a chance to unite with reality. I have come to realize that it is more than an act of monitoring the world. Sometimes I feel like I am penetrating a void to a parallel universe. Pretty mystical I suppose.

Perhaps none of this is very useful in looking at my work. The only advice I can give was offered by Minor White, "Look at it not for what it is, but for what else it is.

In 1973 Welpott was the recipient of the Medal of Arles, France; later a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1973; and, in 1983, a Polaroid grant in association with the Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego.

Jack Welpott passed away in November 23, 2007, at the age of 84. His photographs are in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Whitney Museum, New York; International Museum of Photography, George Eastman House, Rochester, NY; Art Institute of Chicago; Center of Creative Photography, University of Arizona, Tucson; University of New Mexico, Albuquerque; Norton Simon Art Museum, Pasadena, CA; Oakland Museum; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris.