A long-time resident of Atlanta, Welch earned a business degree from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1928. He went on to serve in counterintelligence during World War II and landed in Normandy at Omaha Beach 10 days after the invasion. He was stationed in France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany, where he took photographs of the war effort.
Welch’s deep interest in photography eventually took him across the globe—from capturing images of wildlife in Africa to studying under the renowned photographer Ansel Adams. Welch’s specialty was platinum palladium prints—a process also used by pioneering photographers Irving Penn, Paul Strand, Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Weston among others.
After a decades-long career as a manager for Sonoco Products Company, Ernest Welch formalized his study of photography by enrolling in Georgia State’s art school in his late 80s; he earned a bachelor of fine arts in photography from the university in 1999. During fall semester 2002, Welch enrolled in introductory painting and drawing classes in order to continuously improve his photography skills. He continued his self-education when he took up digital photography at 102. Welch became a generous benefactor to the GSU art school, and it was named in honor of his generosity and passion in 2003.