Interviewsand Articles


Mirrors & Manifestations: John Upton and David Ulrich

by John Upton/David Ulrich, Nov 6, 2014



A few months ago I got a note from John Upton about a curious coincidence. Upton studied with Minor White in the early days when Minor was heading up the department of Fine Art Photography at SFAI. I was fascinated and sent a note to David Ulrich, who had also studied with Minor White later in Minor’s career. Interviews with each photographer can be found at the links above. I thought this was worth publishing.—Richard Whittaker

[photo of John Upton]

Here is John Upton's note:​
“I read your interview with David Ulrich, which I found fascinating. After you first mentioned him to me a couple of years ago I went to his website to see some of his photographs. After browsing for awhile I was absolutely stunned by one of the images he made in Hawaii. He made this photograph many years ago along the Chain of Craters Road, which runs about 20 miles plus from Kilauea volcano to the ocean. The road passes through an endless number of lava flows. Four years ago, before I ever heard of David Ulrich, I made the image I’m enclosing. The nearly identical space we photographed is about 6’ in length. This coincidence raises interesting questions in the context of Minor White’s teachings. Whose inner self is being mirrored?”

Here is David Ulrich's note:
“In another instance, I braked the car suddenly upon seeing a strange lunar landscape. In this portion of the National Park, what seemed like hundreds of square miles of land were covered by lava that had dried into a swirling desert of crusty, crinkly, chameleon-like forms that shifted and changed in the passing light. NASA used this strange landscape to train astronauts for moon landings, as it resembled the moon’s surface more than any other place on earth. What I saw in a wall of convoluted pahoehoe (rope-like) lava facing the road was a Hieronymus Bosch-like tableaux of writhing bodies and purgatorial anguish metaphorically revealed in the torturous forms and shapes. Small plant growths emerged from the death mask of these twisted forms: death and rebirth was everywhere. These images were like me and became core photographs in my growing body of work.”


About the Author

John Upton and David Ulrich are both well known photographers and former students of Minor White.


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