g. Paul Bishop began photographing 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."
Excertpted from the Heller Gallery Exhibit biography, 1981: ASUC
Building - UC Berkeley.
With the combined efforts of his wife Luella
and his son, Paul Bishop, Jr., g. Paul Bishop's work lives on.
A collection of photographs from 1947 to 1989
Six article written
about g. Paul Bishop