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Henry Wessel

Traveller of Light

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Summary

Henry Wessel discusses with FotoTV how he came upon photography and taking photographs while on the road and we learn how his work has become an important part of photographic history. It was his girlfriend who provided Wessel the opportunity to become a photographer after she gave him a Leica Camera. It was not long after taking his first photos and experimenting in the darkroom was he hooked.

Even though he knew very little about photography at the time it fascinated him and soon after opened a natural light portrait studio with his girlfriend, which they operated for one year before hitchhiking across America for seven years. During those years Wessel racked up an outstanding 34 trips back and forth, across the United States. It was the American west and south west that ignited his photographic passion. Wessel’s method generally was to go out and photograph a myriad of subjects without a plan. He says “It is the unpredictable things that turn up in the photo aside from the main action. Those elements give photos an authenticity, giving it power."

What drew Wessel to the world of photography was simply the physical world itself and all its glorious intricacies. That is what interested him initially, and it still keeps him motivated today. Wessel, who is one of California's most respected artists, is able to articulate his philosophy in a concise visual sense, and his unique and unforgettable images give us much to discover about his world and how he sees it. In the past he worked mostly in black and white using a manual camera, printing hundreds of contact sheets each year only to archive them in his studio.

Years later, he still continues to sort through them, discovering a certain moment in time which represents what he experienced, what he was thinking and feeling while taking the picture. Since photography is a visual recording instrument, Wessel's distinctive images of landscape, architecture and people can best be interpreted at best, documentary in style, but at the same time the approach has always coexisted within Wessel, inspiring his incisive personal perspective.