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g. Paul Bishop

1915 - 1998


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 his work.

Subsequent events 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."

When Bishop 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
     Bilding - UC Berkeley.


* Photograph of g. Paul Bishop was taken by G. Paul Bishop, Jr.


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At the UC Berkeley Bancroft Library, there is an oral history about g. Paul Bishop along with a permanent collection of his work.  You may contact the library at www.lib.berkeley.edu/BANC .


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