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Jack Welpott papers

Identifier: AG 218

Scope and Contents

The Jack Welpott Archive contains correspondence of Jack Welpott with galleries, institutions, friends and students. The activity files include articles he collected about other artist’s work and exhibitions in addition to those about his own work and those he wrote. Also included are exhibition announcements, teaching and workshop materials, his artist statement and interviews. The biographical materials contain a passport, personal photographs, Welpott’s genealogy, and memorial announcement in 2008. The archive also contains writing, financial files and photographic materials including contact sheets, negatives, and test prints by him and other artists. The materials date from 1937-2008. Note: Six reel-to-reel audiotapes of recorded music were destroyed due to excessive mold. The content labels on each tape box was photocopied.


  • circa 1937-2009


Language of Materials

Material inEnglish

Conditions Governing Access

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Conditions Governing Use

It is the responsibility of the user to obtain permission from the copyright owner (which could be the institution, the creator of the record, the author or his/her transferees, heirs, legates or literary executors) prior to any copyright-protected uses of the collection.

The user agrees to indemnify, defend, and hold harmless the Arizona Board of Regents, the University of Arizona, Center of Creative Photography, including its officers, employees, and agents, from and against all claims made relating to copyright or other intellectual property infringement

Biographical Note

Born in Kansas City, Kansas on April 27, 1923, Jack Welpott (1923-2007) was educated at primary and secondary schools in Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana. He learned about photography as a boy by watching his uncle in the darkroom, and began taking pictures by the time he was twelve. After high school he enrolled in college, but was drafted into the U.S. Army Air Force in 1943. He served in the South Pacific as a radio intercept operator until 1946. In 1949, he earned his BS in Economics from the University of Indiana, Bloomington on the G.I. Bill. He then studied photography under Henry Homes Smith, painting under Leon Golub and Harry Engle, and design with George Rickey receiving his MS in Visual Communication in 1955. Welpott then completed his MFA in photography and painting in 1959, getting to know classmates Jerry Uelsmann and Van Deren Coke in the process. During these years, he also became acquainted with Harry Callahan, Aaron Siskind, and Minor White.

Upon graduation, Welpott was hired by John Gutmann to teach photography in the Art Department at San Francisco State College, now San Francisco State University, where he made extensive contributions to the field of photographic education over the next thirty-three years. In the early 1960s there were few photography courses or graduate programs offered so Welpott pioneered individual courses and a graduate program, and taught one of the first history of photography courses at the college level. Don Worth joined the faculty in 1962, adding color photography to the program, long before color photography was widely accepted as an art medium.

Welpott was a beloved instructor and was deeply dedicated to the success of his students. His educational goal was to determine the needs of the student, provide constructive criticism, and most importantly, help them develop their own vision. A number of his students have had successful photographic careers including Judy Dater, Leland Rice, John Spence Weir, Michael Bishop, Harvey Himelfarb, and Catherine Wagner. He was a pillar in San Francisco’s photographic community for years, along with Ansel Adams, Ruth Bernard, Oliver Gagliani and Dorothea Lange. He was a member of the Friends of Photography, in Carmel, California and served on their Board of Trustees in the mid-1970s and was also a member of the Society for Photographic Education.

Welpott played jazz piano and saw a relationship between his preferred musical form and the photographic process, once saying “When I’m working behind a camera, I feel like I’m trying to achieve something like a jazz musician does.” He was deeply committed to the photographic craft and the unique qualities of the medium. In his artist’s statement he wrote, “I like the process. The way in which it holds together opposites: light and dark, beautiful and ugly, sublime and banal.” He further defined his appreciation for photography’s unique relationship to time, poetically musing, “I like the way it locks you into the moment, the eternal present.”

Best known for his nude studies of women, early in his career he produced a stellar group of documentary style pictures of his mid-western community that are charming and powerful in their directness and authenticity. Many of those works were published in the 2006 book Driving to Stony Lonesome. A group of his nudes is brought together with the work of Judy Dater in the 1975 publication Women and Other Visions. Welpott’s portraits of known subjects (such as photographers Aaron Siskind, Brett Weston, and Frederick Sommer) are complemented by equally compelling portraits of unidentified subjects. In all his work he preferred the large format camera and the gelatin silver print, although he also photographed in color.


104 Boxes


Correspondence, biographical files and activity files, 1969-2007, of photographer, teacher, lecturer, and author Jack Welpott (1923-2007). Includes correspondence with noted photographers Ansel Adams, Jerry Uelsman and students Judy Dater, Michael Bishop, Darwin Marable, Catherine Wagner as well as art galleries/museums.


The Collection is arranged into the following series:

  1. Series 1: Correspondence(1961-2007)
  2. Series 2: Activity Files(1960-2009)
  3. Series 3: Writings(1950-2002)
  4. Series 4: Biographical Materials(1943-2008)
  5. Series 5: Audiovisual Materials(1963-2004)
  6. Series 6: Photographic Materials(1937-2004)
  7. Series 7: Accruals, 2017-2020

Custodial History

The collection was started by Jack Welpott in 2005, with donations of photographs and audiovisual materials. The Welpott archive was donated by Jan Welpott in 2010, with additional accruals in 2012, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021. The Center’s collection of 47 photographs were acquired through purchase and gift.

Related Materials

Voices of Photography Oral History Collection: 5.10.2005; 5.11.2005; 5.11.2009

Separated Materials

Six reel-to-reel audiotapes of recorded music were destroyed due to excessive mold. Photocopies have been made of the content labels on each tape box.

Processing Information

The finding aid was updated by Phoenix Smithey in 2017, Alexis Peregoy in 2018, and again by Elias Larralde in 2022.

Jack welpott papers,circa 1937-2007
Finding aid updated by Alexis Peregoy, 2018
© 2020
Description rules
Finding Aid Based On Dacs (Describing Archives: A Content Standard)
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid encoded inEnglish

Repository Details

Part of the Center for Creative Photography Archives Repository

1030 N. Olive RD
Tucson Arizona 85721 United States