Jack Welpott: Photographer, Educator & Collector

A charismatic figure in the California photographic community, Jack Welpott was a photographer known for his stately female nudes and for the decades he spent as an educator.  His collection, part of which is being offered at Swann on October 15, tells the story of both the classical and experimental trajectories of photography in the 20th century. Many of the photographers are now known for their unconventional, radical views on the possibilities of the medium.

Lot 201: Jack Welpott, Sabine, silver print, 1973, printed 1980s. Estimate $2,000 to $3,000. 

Lot 254: Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Wall Abstraction, silver print, 1958. Estimate $2,000 to $3,000. 


Henry Holmes Smith, Jerry Uelsmann, Ralph Eugene Meatyard, and Robert Heinecken, among others, challenged the status quo, redefined what the medium could or should do, and continue to influence and find meaning with a rising group of young photographers. These artists pushed the limits of the darkroom, and found new and challenging ways to articulate themselves.

Lot 347: Henry Holmes Smith, Mother and Son, dye-transfer print, 1950-70. Estimate $2,000 to $3,000. 


Lot 348: Henry Holmes Smith, Death of Punch, dye-transfer print, 1960-75. Estimate $3,000 to $4,000. 

Henry Holmes Smith, once Welpott’s instructor at Indiana University, used photography (often camera-less) to explore light and color. In Death of Punch, he used broken Christmas tree ornaments to create a riotous, very nearly dangerous, circus of form and layered color. Mother and Son  explores mythic, primordial subjects. In this study, Smith spread a viscous liquid and water on a pane of glass, and made an exposure with a 100-watt light bulb. The light passed through the liquid, revealing his expressive, amorphous figures.

Lot 298: Jerry Uelsmann, Small Woods Where I Met Myself (Final Version), silver print, 1967. Estimate $2,000 to $3,000. 

Lot 299: Jerry Uelsmann, Untitled (female nude melting into bed), silver print, 1977. Estimate $1,500 to $2,500. 

An MFA classmate of Welpott, Jerry Uelsmann's mysteriously surreal tableaux, created completely in the dark room, are rich in detail and complexity and invite the viewer to create a narrative. Using layered negatives, Uelsmann's work paved the way for 20th-century American montage.

Lot 335: Robert Heinecken, Documentary Photogram/ Coffee Break Drinks and Dinner, offset lithograph from a photogram, 1971. Estimate $2,000 to $3,000. 

Lot 350: Robert Heinecken, [detail] She/He, Polaroid, 1980. Estimate $5,000 to $7,500. 

Another dynamic figure in the California photography community with Welpott, the subversive and provocative Robert Heinecken called himself a "para-photgrapher," often appropriating photographs that appeared in popular media, and reimagining, recontextualizing, and rephotographing them as an exploration of media, traditional definitions of "high" versus popular culture, sex, and advertising. His Polaroids, one of which is offered here as part of the He/She series, represent one of his forays into his own image-making. Using photography incorporated into sculptures, moving images, magazine imagery, and traditional printmaking methods, Heinecken demonstrated that photography has no limits.


For more photos from the collection of Jack Welpott, be sure to check out our catalogue. Thanks to Associate Director of Photographs & Photobooks Deborah Rogal for contributing this post.

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