Archive Contact: Barbara Bullock-Wilson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Edna Bullock (1915-1997) was born and raised in the small rural community of Hollister, California. She was a girl of high energy, good at a wide variety of sports, but without a sharp competitive edge. Her first love was dance. Although she had dreams of becoming a professional dancer, she was persuaded by her family not to pursue the life of a performer. Her passion for dance never left her, however, and she found ways to manifest it throughout her life.
After college, Edna taught physical education at Fresno High School until her marriage in 1943 to former concert singer and budding photographer Wynn Bullock. She devoted the next 15 years of her life to being a full-time housewife and mother, raising two daughters, Barbara and Lynne, along with stepdaughter, Mimi. She then resumed her teaching career, first in P.E. and dance and then in home economics. In 1974, she retired from teaching to care for her beloved husband, who died of cancer in November 1975.
Edna began her own career in photography in 1976, the year she turned 61. As she explained, “I had inherited a darkroom, camera equipment, and supplies. For more than 30 years, I had been immersed in the world of photography. My own needs to be artistically creative were strong, so I decided to enroll in beginning photography at Monterey Peninsula College and see what I could do.” She tackled her new venture with typical zeal and, in an amazingly short time, friends such as Ansel Adams, Morley Baer, and Ruth Bernhard witnessed her evolution from student to workshop assistant to fellow teacher and exhibitor.
An exceptionally prolific artist for two decades, Edna produced a wide variety of black and white imagery, including an extensive series on flea markets. She is probably best known for her photographs of nudes, many of which can be found in a book released on her 80th birthday titled simply Edna’s Nudes (Capra Press, 1995). Reflecting her character, her work is intuitive, direct, zesty, graceful (she saw with a dancer’s eye), and touched with humor.
What turned out to be her final exhibition project was titled Edna’s Portraits, an interesting collection of photographs that spanned the entire range of her artistry and gave a fresh glimpse into what portraiture can be. In her Artist’s Statement, she wrote, “I’m not a deep thinker like Wynn was, but like it was for Wynn, photography has become the best way I have to experience and know things. When I’m out with a camera, I feel most alive…. I see and understand things I’m not ordinarily aware of. Mind you, this doesn’t happen every time I photograph…but the magic that I’m talking about makes me want to photograph until I die.”
During her relatively short photographic career, Edna’s images were displayed in over 100 individual and group exhibitions throughout the U.S. and abroad, reproduced in numerous publications, and included in the permanent collections of such institutions as Bibliotheque Nationale, Kyoto’s National Museum of Modern Art, Monterey Museum of Art, University of Arizona’s Center for Creative Photography, and University of California, Santa Cruz.
As the wife of renowned photographer Wynn Bullock, Edna was an important part of her husband’s story for 32 years. As a woman who began a new career at age 61, she created an inspiring story totally her own.