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Jack Welpott (1923-2007)

Jack Welpott

Internationally known photographer and educator, Jack Welpott was born in Kansas City, Kansas on April 27, 1923, but grew up in Bloomington, Indiana. After high school he enrolled in Indiana University, but was drafted into the U.S. Army Air Force in 1943. He served in the South Pacific as a radio intercept operator until 1946. After WW II, he returned to Indiana University on the G.I. Bill where he earned an M.F.A degree studying with Henry Holmes Smith. Jack and Jerry Uelsmann were the first M.F.A. graduates while Van Deren Coke was also a graduate student. During these years, he became acquainted with Harry Callahan, Aaron Siskind, and Minor White all of whom were established photographers and pioneers in American photographic education.

Jack was hired in 1959 by John Gutmann, to teach photography within the Art Department at San Francisco State College, now San Francisco State University. He taught there for the next thirty-three years. When he arrived in San Francisco the Beat Generation was winding down in North Beach, however, he took advantage of the local poetry, jazz, art and culture. He also played jazz piano, which became a lifelong avocation. Years later he said, “When I’m working behind a camera, I feel like I’m trying to achieve something like a jazz musician does.” He also soon became associated with the local photographic community which included Ansel Adams, Ruth Bernard, Oliver Gagliani and Dorothea Lange.

At that time there were almost no photography courses or graduate programs offered at the university level anywhere in the United States. Jack pioneered in creating both photography courses and a graduate program. He also taught one of the first history of photography courses at the college/university level. While providing a solid basis in photographic technique, Jack always encouraged an appreciation of the master photographers. Also, he integrated the ideas of Carl G. Jung, the Swiss psychoanalyst, into the reading of photographs, especially dreams, symbolism and the unconscious mind. Jack’s educational goal was to determine the needs of the student, provide constructive criticism and help them develop their own vision. A number of his students have become major contributors to photography: Judy Dater, Leland Rice, John Spence Weir, Michael Bishop, Harvey Himelfarb, and Catherine Wagner among numerous others. has now the gallery Min catalogue available

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