Wells, Alice (1927–1987)

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Wells, Alice (1927–1987)

American photographer. Name variations: Alisa Wells. Born in 1927 in Erie, Pennsylvania; died in 1987 in Galisteo, New Mexico; attended Pennsylvania State University in University Park, Pennsylvania; married Kenneth Carl Meyers (divorced 1959); married Richard Witteman, in 1974 (separated 1980); married Roman Attenberger; children: (first marriage) three.

Born in Erie, Pennsylvania, in 1927, Alice Wells became known for her experimental work with montage and assorted photographic processing techniques. After marrying Kenneth Carl Meyers, Wells moved to Rochester, New York, where her husband held a position with Eastman Kodak. In 1952, Wells began working for Kodak as well, in a secretarial position. She took up photography in 1959, the same year she divorced Meyers. In 1961, she attended an Ansel Adams photography workshop in Yosemite National Park, California, followed by a year's worth of study with Nathan Lyons at his home in Rochester, New York. In 1962, Wells resigned her position at Kodak and became Lyons' secretary at George Eastman House (now the International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House) also located in Rochester.

Wells began creating photographs of abstract forms in nature using large-format cameras. In 1964, she had a solo exhibition of those works at Eastman House. She switched to hand-held 35-mm cameras in 1965 and used highly populated urban areas as her subject. Wells experimented with multiple exposures in camera and negative sandwiches in the darkroom. She also worked with solarization, toning, and hand coloring. In 1969, Lyons created the Visual Studies Workshop (originally called the Photographic Studies Workshop) in Rochester, where Wells was his assistant until 1972 when she moved to New Mexico. While there, Wells changed her first name to "Alisa" which she spelled in various ways. In 1974, she married Richard Witteman who shared her interest in Zen Buddhism. The couple separated in 1980, and Wells' third marriage to Roman Attenberger lasted until her death in 1987.


Rosenblum, Naomi. A History of Women Photographers. NY: Abbeville, 1994.

Susan J. Walton , freelance writer, Berea, Ohio

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