Ulrike Welsch

I learned to see when I came to America. I was twenty-three, was a trained druggist/chemist in Germany, but had a hobby: Photography. When seeing new designs and new faces in Boston I photographed extensively in my free time. I had a Rolleicord then. My first job was in a camera store; my English language skills were improving. Living in the city on Beacon Hill gave me much opportunity to photograph. I developed the photos in my ‘closet’ darkroom – with my Durst enlarger 606, which I had brought with me in my overseas trunk.

Boston was an eye-opener for me photographically as well as Life in America in the Sixties: People’s faces and fashions were different, the houses had fire escapes, Afro-American children had long eyelashes, Men in the Commons smoked pipes—all great subjects for me. The people were welcoming and encouraging and liked my images. My first exhibition was at Café Florian on Newbury Street! 

In my second summer, I went as a councilor to a Colorado Camp. I needed to move on and see more of the country. I updated my portfolio since I had gained confidence in my work and now could say: I am a photographer. The Boston Herald Traveler gave me a chance: I became the first female photographer on their photo-staff. I learned while following the local news and with the extra time I captured images with Human Interest. Five years later I joined The Boston Globe, again as the first woman on their photo staff. My Human Interest images put my name on the front pages and so to speak on ‘the map’! America and the editors liked those photos. It was still the time of Black & White. Occasionally I also covered some of the big news events during the time span 1966 to 1981: the Robert Kennedy Funeral, The JFK Library Groundbreaking, Pope John Paul’s visit to Boston, many Vietnam War Demonstrations, Prison Riots as well as Boston Busing. 

I met and photographed many notable people; it was a very interesting time. Not all assignments were smooth and easy; just alone carrying cameras in the open made me a subject for theft in a big city. But I lost only one camera and lens to crime and it was under gunpoint. The seed to eventually leave news-photography started here!

Already then I loved to travel. In 1968 I took a leave of absence to explore America’s West (when I met Ansel Adams in Yosemite Natl. Park), in later years I spent six months in South America (1978/79). And still with The Boston Globe in 1981 I was invited to photograph ‘A Day in the Life of Australia’. In the same year, I also went to Thailand to photograph His Royal Highness King Bhumibol Adulyadei and his wife HM Queen Sirikit. While in Thailand, I also photographed at the Cambodian refugee camp Khao I Dang.

My time had come: I started photographing on my own and left The Boston Globe in 1981. It was a gamble to leave a well-paid job to become a freelancer, but I survived. I am a post-war child and was able to live frugally. My range went from public-relations work to textbooks to stock photography and picture table books. I gave short courses at Harvard Center for Lifelong Learning for ten years. For the textbook time, I assigned myself to Spanish, German and French-speaking countries to collect material. In the early 2000s, I began working with a regional publisher on coffee-table books. All in all, I have 13 solo books under my name! I could go on—life is good and I still enjoy photographing the World. I just returned from an adventurous trek to Patagonia.