g. Paul Bishop
began photography in 1935 with a "one dollar Brownie." The
experience was "just electric," says Bishop, and he began to
photograph constantly. Bishop was largely self-taught, although
Edward Weston was an early mentor --- "I'd go charging down to
Carmel and hang around. I'm sure he found me very pesty,"
says Bishop. In 1938 on the advice of a professor,
Dr. Max Marshall, Bishop dropped out of dental school and opened a
photographic studio in a garret in Berkeley. The studio folded
and Bishop was prompted to change his business tactics. He
learned Hollywood "glamour" photography and opened a plush
studio in Oakland. "It was an era of bear rugs and pouted lower
lips," he recalls. the venture was a tremendous economic and
critical success but Bishop felt personally discontented with
in World War II were to define not only Bishop's photographic
direction but his philosophy of life as well. As a photographic
officer in the U.S. Navy, Bishop attended photo school, did
aerial reconnaissance photography and received a Presidential
Citation, as a result of which he was sent to work with Edward
Steichen in a unit recording the history of the war. Bishop
began photographing the men around him, including
Father James Doyle, a courageous Navy Chaplain with whom he became life-long
friends. "Father Doyle was the bravest man I ever met --- his is
the first truly great picture I ever made. The war brought my
thinking into focus, gave me a clear idea of how to photograph
people. There's a quality of humanity that comes out in war. I
want to capture that spirit when I photograph people."
returned to the United States, he opened a new studio with the
assistance of his bride, Luella. Bishop has given a great deal
of credit for the success of his photographs to Luella Bishop
--- "She has excellent taste and provides the inspiration,
encouragement and frank criticism that I require." Because he
insisted on photographing people "just as they are" and refused
to retouch photos, Bishop sometimes was forced to do non-
photographic work and make financial sacrifices, However, this
insistence on maintaining his own aesthetic and philosophical
standards is what finally established Bishop's distinctive style
as a sought after photographer. Bishop feels that photography
provided him with the best possible life fulfilling work,
personal freedom and adequate financial success for himself and
his family. Says Bishop, "I really don't know what I'd be doing
if I weren't a photographer. I don't think I'll ever retire."
Excerpted from the Heller
Gallery Exhibit biography,
1981: ASUC Student Union
- UC Berkeley.
Photograph of g. Paul Bishop was taken by G.
Paul Bishop, Jr.
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At the UC
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