Henry Wessel was an American photographer and educator. He made "obdurately spare and often wry black-and-white pictures of vernacular scenes in the American West".
Wessel was born in Teaneck, New Jersey and raised in Ridgefield. He graduated from Pennsylvania State University in 1966, where he discovered his lifelong career interest through an encounter with a work of photographs he picked up in a book store near the campus, which led him to give up his previous interest in psychology. Throughout his career, he used only one camera and one type of film: a Leica 35 mm camera with a 28 mm wide-angle lens and Kodak Tri-X film.
Wessel was an emeritus professor of art at the San Francisco Art Institute, where he taught from 1973 to 2014.
Sandra S. Phillips, senior curator of photography at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art wrote, "Wessel's remarkable work, witty, evocative and inventive, is distinctive and at the same time a component part of the great development of photography which flourished in the 1970s. The pictures continue to grow and evolve and the work is now regarded as an individual important contribution to twentieth-century American photography.
Wessel produced a number of books on photography. He was the recipient of two Guggenheim Fellowships and three National Endowment for the Arts grants and his work is included in the permanent collections of major American, European, and Asian museums.
His first solo exhibition was curated by John Szarkowski at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1972 and he was one of ten photographers included in the influential New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape exhibition at George Eastman House in 1975.