Henry Wessel’s House Pictures – Inspiring or not? You decide

Henry Wessel - No. 91117, 1991 , from House Pictures
Henry Wessel – No. 91117, 1991, from House Pictures

Who was Henry Wessel

Henry Wessel (1942-2018), the photographer who found a particular interest in houses, was brought up in New Jersey. His visit to California in the year 1970 made him fell in love with the atmosphere and beauty of the state, and eventually moved to San Francisco.

Henry Wessel was an American photographer and educator, best known for his House Pictures series, taken in Southern California’s suburbs in the early 1990s.

Video: Henry Wessel speaks about his work

8 min 11 sec

House Pictures

Henry had a passion for photography, and since 1966, he used to shoot American houses. At first, anyone who does not admire architectural art would think of his images like real estate photography and drop his shots in this category.

House Pictures is a series of small to average-sized colorful bungalows. The photos do not have humans in them, but the houses in the pictures do suggest the human presence in each home that he had captured. Henry Wessel has described human presence in his images in precise detail, such as capturing the garden hose or the curbside just by the house.

Henry Wessel - No. 90418, 1990, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel – No. 90418, 1990, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel - No. 91265, 1991, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel – No. 91265, 1991, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel - No. 91167, 1991, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel – No. 91167, 1991, from House Pictures

What makes this series unique?

There’s a rare similarity in each picture. All the houses, although different in color, have the same build and structure. This does showcase not only the originality of Wessel’s images. It also flaunts the quality of the house that every American wishes to have ownership of.

House Pictures might seem like it was a project for his dispassionate studies about the houses’ material, flora, colors, build, structure, etc. But, the perspective of these images is entirely different, as showcased in the gridded installation of the work.

Analysis

In some of the house images, there are garden hoses. In most of the pictures, they were rolled up, and in others, scattered. In some photographs, the garden hoses were dried, unused, or stretched along with the house’s lawn, showcasing dead grass floor.

These precise details of the houses indicate that Wessel is actually describing the presence of a human without ever showing them. His photos can be seen as portraits of the particular house’s inhabitants. Wessel’s images might not be about those houses but rather the people that live in them.

Henry Wessel - No. 91137, 1991, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel – No. 91137, 1991, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel - No. 90967, 1990, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel – No. 90967, 1990, from House Pictures

Henry Wessel gave a little briefing about his art project and said that we could never even know the people or the inhabitants who live in this house. That is why any assumption about them might be opposite or untrue.

However, by noticing the fresh paint, the house lawn, the dried grass floor, or a string of Christmas lights on Christmas eve, we can interpret the people who live in the house and their habits. Wessel further said that the content of his images is authentic and descriptive enough.

Henry Wessel - No. 90922, 1990, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel – No. 90922, 1990, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel - No. 90912, 1990, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel – No. 90912, 1990, from House Pictures

Conclusion

Through House Pictures, Wessel has allowed his image viewers to interpret the humans that live behind the walls of those houses. In reality, their lives are concealed behind the walls of that house, but one can understand it through Wessel’s photos.

Photos

Henry Wessel - No. 90894, 1990, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel – No. 90894, 1990, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel - No. 90674, 1990, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel – No. 90674, 1990, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel - No. 90659, 1990, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel – No. 90659, 1990, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel - No. 90637, 1990, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel – No. 90637, 1990, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel - No. 90602, 1990, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel – No. 90602, 1990, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel - No. 90482, 1990, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel – No. 90482, 1990, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel - No. 90467, 1990, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel – No. 90467, 1990, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel - No. 91275, 1991, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel – No. 91275, 1991, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel - No. 907914, 1990, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel – No. 907914, 1990, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel - No. 907218, 1990, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel – No. 907218, 1990, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel - No. 906914, 1990, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel – No. 906914, 1990, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel - No. 906515, 1990, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel – No. 906515, 1990, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel - No. 905718, 1990, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel – No. 905718, 1990, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel - No. 905017, 1990, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel – No. 905017, 1990, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel - No. 904317, 1990, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel – No. 904317, 1990, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel - No. 903911, 1990, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel – No. 903911, 1990, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel - No. 902719, 1990, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel – No. 902719, 1990, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel - No. 902516, 1990, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel – No. 902516, 1990, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel - No. 91517, 1991, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel – No. 91517, 1991, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel - No. 91315, 1991, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel – No. 91315, 1991, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel - No. 908015, 1990, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel – No. 908015, 1990, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel - No. 908314, 1990, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel – No. 908314, 1990, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel - No. 912715, 1991, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel – No. 912715, 1991, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel - No. 912315, 1991, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel – No. 912315, 1991, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel - No. 912214, 1991, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel – No. 912214, 1991, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel - No. 911714, 1991, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel – No. 911714, 1991, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel - No. 911416, 1991, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel – No. 911416, 1991, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel - No. 909617, 1990, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel – No. 909617, 1990, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel - No. 909314, 1990, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel – No. 909314, 1990, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel - No. 909215, 1990, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel – No. 909215, 1990, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel - No. 908617, 1990, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel – No. 908617, 1990, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel - No. 908614, 1990, from House Pictures
Henry Wessel – No. 908614, 1990, from House Pictures

All images: Estate of Henry Wessel unless otherwise noted.

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