Commentary by Barbara Bullock-Wilson

It's hard for me to imagine a more revealing portrait of my father than this image. His outline is there, but his surface appearance does not dominate and right in his heart space there is light.

Just as this image serves as a visual representation of Dad, I have chosen distillations of his written and spoken words to complement it.

"As long as I can remember," Dad once recounted, "I have been filled with a deep desire to find a means of creatively interacting with the world, of understanding more of what is within and around me. It was not until I was 40, however, that I decided photography was my best way. When I photograph, what I'm really doing is seeking answers to things.

"Searching is everything - going beyond what you know. And the test of the search is really in the things themselves, the things you seek to understand. What is important is not what you think about them, but how they enlarge you.

"Mysteries lie all around us, even in the most familiar things, waiting only to be perceived.

"What you see is real - but only on the particular level to which you've developed your sense of seeing. You can expand your reality by developing new ways of perceiving.

"I love the medium of photography for with its unique realism it gives me the power to go beyond conventional ways of seeing and understanding and say, 'This is real, too.'

"I feel strongly that pictures must come from contact with things at the time and place of taking. At such times, I rely on intuitive, perceptual responses to guide me, using reason only after the final print is made to accept or reject the results of my work. Although both intuition and reason are equally important tools that help me grow visually, the creative act itself comes from an intense, direct, one-to-one relationship between myself and whatever I photograph.

"Theoretical scientists who probe the secrets of the universe and philosophers who seek answers to existence, as well as painters such as Paul Klee who compatible with art, influence me far more than most photographers. My interest in such people is to share in their wonderment of nature and, in sharing, find added inducement to go out, look, feel, and photograph.

"Growth in photography requires that you continually engage in a critique of your ways of perceiving and thinking so that you may not be unconsciously ruled by them. Whenever I have found myself stuck in the ways I relate to things, I return to nature. It is my principal teacher, and I try to open my whole being to what it has to say. I don't want to tell a tree or weed what it is. I want it to tell me something and through me express its meaning in nature.

"I have always loved light, not in a sentimental or church way, but as a great and beautiful force. Its manifestations serve as symbols of the greatest secrets of the unknown. Creativity has enabled me to probe and reveal step by step the unknown even though I know I can only travel a short distance. But every step in that direction is a transcendental experience.

"The tonal brilliance of a fine print is not an end in itself. At best it evokes a sense of light. Not alone the light that permits us to sense objects, but the light that arouses in us a feeling of light in its own mysterious right.

"Light to me is perhaps the most profound truth in the universe. My thinking has been deeply affected by the belief that everything is some form of radiant energy.

"When I feel a rock is as much a miracle as a person, then I feel in touch with the universe. Not the object rockÉbut the light that is the rock.

"In a photograph, if I am able to evoke not alone a feeling of the reality of the surface physical world but also a feeling of the reality of existence that lies mysteriously and invisibly beneath its surface, I feel I have succeeded. At their best, photographs as symbols not only serve to help illuminate some of the darkness of the unknown, they also serve to lessen the fears that too often accompany the journeys from the known to the unknown.

"The urge to create, the urge to photograph, comes in part from the deep desire to live with more integrity, to live more in peace with the world, and possibly to help others do the same."

As Dad's own words affirm, the photograph of Self-Portrait, 1971, is an evocation of his spirit as well as his creative journey. For me, it is also a quietly eloquent depiction of the person I knew and loved as a parent, mentor, colleague, and friend.

~ Barbara Bullock-Wilson