For each of us, there are places of power and magic and mystery - places where we experience our wholeness as well as our connectedness, where we feel impelled to return time and again to remember and learn and grow. For my father, such a place was a stretch of land and sea along the central coast of California called Point Lobos State Reserve.

When our family moved to the Monterey Peninsula in the mid-1940s, Dad was also in his mid-40s and had become a professional photographer only a few years before.

At first, Point Lobos was simply a favorite picnic spot. Although Dad took hundreds of "pretty pictures" and family snapshots there such as Edna and Barbara, Point Lobos, 1947, he never considered them to be part of his creative efforts, which, at the time, were totally absorbed in the exploration of various experimental processes such as solarization, reticulation, and photograms.

Then, in 1948, he met Edward Weston and discovered the depth and beauty that could be achieved in a straight black & white print. More importantly, he experienced its potential for revealing, without the use of visible manipulative techniques, not only what the eyes see, but what the heart and mind see as well. After several years of studio work, Dad was ripe for change and he plunged into exploring this different way of working.

He began his adventure by establishing a new level of involvement with the natural world. Although he had always had a great love for the out-of-doors, his association with it had been primarily recreational. Now, he turned to nature as the focus of his creative endeavors, and it was the start of an intimate relationship which nourished his growth as a person and an artist for the rest of his life.

Initially, he spent a great deal of time in the field, peering through his 8 x 10 view camera, re-acquainting himself with familiar locales as he learned to relate to them in different ways.

Most often, he worked at Point Lobos - it was only a ten-minute drive from our Monterey home, publicly accessible, and never crowded. In fact, it was a rare day when he encountered anyone else as he roamed freely around the Reserve.

Consciously setting aside the habits, expectations and conventions he had accumulated over the years, Dad interacted with the natural world as freely and directly as he was capable of and he gradually began making photographs which had meaning for him.

Among the early Point Lobos images Dad included in his maturing vision were his photographs of nudes in natural settings. Two examples are Nancy, Point Lobos, 1953 and Woman with Dog in Forest, 1953.

Commenting on his nudes and the experiences which inspired them, Dad once wrote, "Human beings are not the center of the universe, and, if they are to sustain themselves, it is vitally important for them to be awakened to how closely they are linked with the rest of nature."

Intent on being aware of his total experience rather than concentrating on just what his eyes alone could see, Dad was also able to create landscapes and seascapes that conveyed a wider view. Point Lobos Tide Pool, 1957 is a particularly intriguing example.

As a source of inspiration for Dad, Point Lobos was exceptional. In part, this was because of the energy and spirit of the place and partly because he had formed such a special connection with it early in the development of his own unique vision as a photographer. When he was at Lobos, he felt an extra measure of joy, well-being, and receptivity. Our Featured Image Point Lobos Wave, 1958, is a vibrant symbol of both the spirit of the Reserve and his deep personal connection with it.

A search for greater understanding and an evolving vision were hallmarks of Dad's photographic career, and the heightened sensitivity that Point Lobos inspired led to experiences and understandings that enriched the symbolic power of all his photographs wherever his film was exposed.

In summarizing the critical importance of this process for him, he said, "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…. 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. Although sometimes it takes me quite a while, eventually these interactions enable me to break the constricting habits I've formed and resume my work with fresh vigor."

Among the Point Lobos images that mark the on-going evolution of Dad's vision during the late 60s and early 70s are Rocks, Hen and Chickens, 1969; Point Lobos Tide Pools, 1972; and Rock, 1973.

Fittingly, one of the last outings in Dad's life was a family picnic at Point Lobos. It occurred just weeks before he died in the late fall of 1975 and was filmed as part of a documentary that was being made on his life and work.

As Dad, Mom, my two sisters, and I were gathered in a circle by the shore reminiscing about Point Lobos and the special meanings it had for each of us, our mood was joyful and much laughter was shared.

After a time, Dad grew quiet and then said, "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."

~ Adapted from the essay "Wynn Bullock and Point Lobos" published in the October 1992 issue of The Photographic Journal © 1992/2015 Barbara Bullock-Wilson. All rights reserved.