Lynne, Logs, and Doll, 1958

Commentary by Paul Cotter

It all started, as many Wynn Bullock photographs from the 1950s did, with a picnic.

"Family picnics were a real highlight during this period," Bullock explained. "I'd work all morning with my camera, and Edna and the girls if they weren't modeling for me would be off hiking or collecting driftwood or reading or playing games. Then around noon we'd all gather together to eat our potato salad Edna makes a great potato salad and pickles and sandwiches. I would tell them what I had seen, and they would share what they had found. It was all part of the joy of the day."

On this day in July 1958, the family had driven along a bumpy section of Old Coast Road near Little Sur River to enjoy a picnic on the grounds of Hill Ranch one of Bullock's favorite locations. His daughter Lynne was five years old at the time. "I was a very dreamy child," Lynne recalls. "I was enamored with fairy tales and mermaids, and I always brought a doll with me on our picnics. On that day, my dad decided to incorporate the doll into the picture."

The resulting photo Lynne, Logs, and Doll is a master course in technical perfection. I love the thoughtful composition, the way our eyes are guided through the scene. The rich tones and textures add a tangible dimension to the print. We can almost touch the fallen timbers. We can almost hear the flowing water.

But the real brilliance of this photo is found in something much deeper than technical mastery. To me, this photograph is a song about wonder. On one level, it's about childhood wonder: a tribute to dolls and fairies and the magic of the forest. But beyond that, Wynn Bullock is showing us the wonder of what it means to be alive, truly alive, to be a vital part of this wondrous, mysterious universe.

As she sits by the water, Lynne is blissfully absorbed in her make-believe world of dolls and mermaids. She's alone, one separate individual, and yet she's totally at home and in perfect harmony with the natural forces that flow around her. Lynne tells us, "My father's photographs have informed my spiritual view of the world. I realize that we're part of nature there's a oneness."

For Wynn Bullock, this oneness was often conveyed by showing his models in natural settings, in their natural, unclothed state. For Lynne and her sister Barbara, modeling for their father in this way was as comfortable as enjoying potato salad together.

"I got so used to posing after our picnic lunches, I just assumed that was the time to photograph," Lynne recalls with a laugh. "One day we were having a picnic with some friends, and after lunch I started disrobing. The other people were astonished. I told them, 'Well, Dad's going to photograph me now.' When they told me he wasn't going to take my picture that day, I started crying."

We can be grateful that Wynn Bullock did take a picture of Lynne on this day of picnicking this day in the summer of 1958, as she played with her doll near Little Sur River. It's a joyful celebration of wonder and the flow of life, and it's one of my favorite photos from the Bullock catalog.

By the way, in case you were wondering: yes, Lynne still has that doll.

Text © 2019/2020 Paul Cotter. All rights reserved.