Commentary by Barbara Bullock-Wilson

In 1946, my parents and I moved to the Monterey Peninsula along the central coast of California. I was about nine months old at the time and it didn't take long for Dad and Mom to discover a ruggedly beautiful area of land and sea called Point Lobos State Reserve.

Just a short drive south toward Big Sur, Point Lobos quickly became a favorite spot for picnics and outdoor recreation. Way before the baby carriers we now use were developed, Mom adapted an automobile booster seat to transport me on her back while hiking through cypress woods and along rocky shores.

My own earliest memory of Point Lobos dates back to my second birthday when we had a celebratory picnic there, complete with cake and ice cream. Unlike today's Reserve, where many of the trails are marked off by wood or cable and eating is only allowed in a few designated sites, back then we were free to roam as we pleased. Other visitors were a rare sight. While Dad took family snapshots and pictures for his commercial travel postcard business, Mom and I would go tide-pooling, rock-climbing, and driftwood-hunting.

In the late 1940s, when Dad's creative efforts shifted from indoor work with alternative processes to a more straight approach in natural environments, Point Lobos and other outdoor locations around the central coast took on much greater significance. Not only were they places to enjoy recreationally and document commercially, they became primary sources for personal growth and expression.

Interacting as freely and directly with the natural world as he was capable of, Dad began producing images in the early 1950s that reflected his own deepening connections with it. His photograph Woman and Dog in Forest, 1954 was taken just off the North Shore Trail at Point Lobos as were several of his other early nudes in natural settings. It would be highly impractical to think about making nude photographs in the Reserve today, but 60 years ago there were no impediments.

When my younger sister Lynne joined our family in 1953, Dad gained a third family model. One day, when she was about three, Lynne and our family were at Point Lobos for another celebration. Although I don't remember the particular occasion, it could have been her birthday as she was dressed in special party clothes. Dad took several snapshots throughout the day and, always alert to more creative opportunities, he also took Lynne, Point Lobos, 1956.

Unlike his informal portraits of her, this serendipitous image records a moment in her life, not as Lynne, but as universal child confronting primal forces. Like many of Dad's images, it is both an evocation of humanity's complex relationships with the natural world and an invitation to consider how we each relate to the worlds within and around us.

Point Lobos Tide Pool, 1957 is another serendipitous image that took place on the Reserve. The day this photograph was made, Dad was hauling his heavy field camera along the South Shore Trail when he happened upon a tide pool with a galaxy in its midst. He set up his equipment as quickly as he could and made his first exposure. Normally, he liked to bracket his exposures, but before he could make a second one, a gust of wind swept across the pool and the complex pattern of microscopic organisms vanished.

Fortunately, one exposure was good enough. Whenever he told the story, Dad would laugh and say, "I was just damn lucky that day!" What he often left unexpressed was the lasting impression of the experience that exemplified for him the continual being-and-becoming nature of the universe as well as the kinship of its microcosmic and macrocosmic dimensions. The image remained a personal favorite for the rest of his life.

Among the other notable images Dad made at Point Lobos are Weston Beach, 1958; Rock and Limpets, 1969; and Point Lobos Rock, 1970. Additional images may be seen on the Featured Image pages of June 2011, June 2012, and November 2012.

Even when an outing was not especially productive, Dad never failed to enjoy his time at the Reserve. As he explained it:

"You really have to give of yourself to make good pictures. Well, that giving takes a lot out of you, and you simply can't operate at that intense level all the time. Neither can you predetermine what happens outside you.

"The fact that good pictures are rare, however, has never slowed me down. Just going out and looking at things and using a camera is therapeutic. I deeply love the whole process."

Although Dad couldn't ever predict what might happen on any given day at the Reserve, he knew it as a place where he experienced wholeness and connection. Sometime he encountered wondrous events such as the day he made Point Lobos Tide Pool, 1957. Other times, he simply returned home with a greater sense of well-being.

Regardless of the outcome, Point Lobos was a continuous wellspring of renewal and inspiration for Dad. For almost thirty years, it offered him a richly rewarding place to be, to grow, and to work.

Text © 2015 Barbara Bullock-Wilson. All rights reserved.