About the Photographer
Wessel Jr., Henry
American, b. 1942
[The photographer's task] is to describe the existing light… Chances are, if you believe the light, you're going to believe that the things photographed existed in the world.
-Henry Wessel Jr., 1987
Henry Wessel Jr., originally from New Jersey, fell in love with the California light on a visit in 1970. Immediately afterwards, he moved to San Francisco from Rochester, New York. Immersing himself in the sights and spaces of California, Wessel nevertheless kept some space from his subjects, becoming the objective observer of distant scenarios.
Fascinated by his mother's real-estate photos as a teenager in New Jersey, Wessel shot this series of bungalows in Southern California from the armrest of his truck more than thirty years later. Playfully candy-colored, these houses suggest a human presence only in details, such as a modest cooler left curbside or a garden hose coiled against the side of a house. Although different in color, the structural similarities of the bungalows, as well as the similar compositions of the photographs themselves, imply both the futility of originality and the manufactured quality of the American dream of home ownership.
Henry Wessel Jr. was born in 1942 in Teaneck, New Jersey. He received his B.A. from Pennsylvania State University in 1966 and an M.F.A. from the State University of New York at Buffalo in 1972. In 1971, Wessel received a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation fellowship and in 1973 his photographs were exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Wessel's work was also included in New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape at the International Museum of Photography in Rochester, New York in 1975. Wessel's photographs are held in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago; Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona, Tucson; Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Wessel is resident faculty in the Photography department of the San Francisco Art Institute.