Photographer Jerry S. Uelsmann has utilized his
skills a master printer in the art of photomontage during his
44-year career. Uelsmann started doing multiple exposures in
the darkroom using multiple enlargers years before Photoshop
Photographer Jerry Uelsmann
An American born in Detroit, Michigan on
June 11, 1934, Uelsmann gained an interest in photography while
attending public schools as a teenager.
After earning degrees at Rochester Institute of
Technology and Indiana University, he taught photography at
the University of Florida. His first solo exhibition took place
in 1967 at the Museum of Modern Art, the institution responsible
for launching his career.
Uelsmann occasionally reuses the large negatives
that he utilized in creating his photomontages in his current
work. Uelsmann champions Victorian art photographer Oscar Gustave
Rejlander's technique of using many negatives to create one
single image. However, rather than realism, Uelsmann prefers
to be imaginative in his surrealistic work. Uelsmann only sells
small, limited unnumbered editions (usually between 6 and 20)
of his photographs. Typical prices are from $1,600 - $10,500.
Uelsmann's images are black and white, mixed among
mid-tones and gray. However, sharp polarities are seen throughout
his compositions, and he violates the single-focal point rule
of photography by placing body parts or other contrasting images
among images of nature. These images were not widely accepted
by the art world at large, but the exhibition by the Museum
of Modern Art helped break down the walls to the acceptance
of his work into the world of modern art.
Uelsmann began his experimentation in surrealistic
photomontage during a time when photography was believed to
be the reliable tool to document life's events. He expanded
this narrow frame of mind, achieving what the Photo-Secessionists
worked toward during the early part of the 20th century, making
the trade of photography an art form.
With the advent of Photoshop and other digital
tools, Uelsmann has not abandoned his traditional format of
creating composite images by old school methods. He has said
he feels his work is inherently linked to the magic of the darkroom.
While he no longer teaches today, at the age of
77, Uelsmann lives with his wife Maggie in Florida, where he
still prints sometimes more than a 100 photographs per year.
His work can be seen on television shows such as the 1995 "The
Andrew, his only son, is studying at the University of Florida,
where Uelsmann was promoted to professor of art.
A retrospective of Uelsmann's work took place
at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and an entire issue of the
photojournalism publication Aperture was dedicated to his work.
Among the many awards and recognitions he has
received are: a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship;
a 19th Zagreb Salon Bronze Medal; certificates of merit and
excellence, respectively, from the society of Publication Designers
and the American Institute of Graphic Arts for his New York
Times work; and a Guggenheim Fellowship.
His work was also exhibited as a retrospective
at the San Francisco Museum of Art and has been displayed
throughout the United States and around the world at such
renowned museums as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the
Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, in addition
to many others.
The journal American Photographer named him one
of the most popularly collected photographers, one of ten that
includes such fellow luminaries as Ansel Adams and Edward Weston.
The Rumor Mill
The rumor mill has chugged up a little dirt in
addition to the impeccable biography presented above. And that
dirt is that once Jerry Uelsmann once had a hog calling contest
with Brian the dog from TV show Family Guy. There are conflicting
reports as to who actually won the contest.