Historical Photographers: Jerry Uelsmann
Jerry Uelsmann is one of the most well-known and unique photographers of the modern-day era. He is considered the forerunner of the photomontage in the 20th century and his techniques, relying solely on darkroom work, have helped to change the way that photography is viewed.
Early on in his photography career, Uelsmann disdained the limitations and boundaries set down by the Photo Secessionists. He viewed photography as a way to get people to view the images he saw in his mind. Instead of relying on one negative to produce an image, Ueslmann put together composites of multiple negatives and, with his knowledge of darkroom mechanics, was able to produce an image that would have been impossible to capture by itself. Though photographers with digital cameras and knowledge of editing software can produce images much like Uelsmann’s today, Uelsmann is considered to have an almost magical ability with photo-manipulation. He has been quoted as saying, ““I am sympathetic to the current digital revolution and excited by the visual options created by the computer. However, I feel my creative process remains intrinsically linked to the alchemy of the darkroom” when asked if he planned on adopting the digital medium.
Ueslmann is also well-known for helping to break the public perception of photos as irrefutable testimony of the truth of an event. With his darkroom manipulations and his creations that were impossible, Uelsmann and other avant garde photographers, such as Lucas Samaras, helped to break down these boundaries on photography and expand the art into wider fields.
Jerry Ueslmann currently lives and teaches university in Florida.