Made entirely in the darkroom, Jerry Uelsmann (1934-2022) created his surreal photographs in a series of steps, masking and exposing different areas of photosensitive paper as he changes negatives. He maintained some loyalty to the aesthetic of traditional landscape and still life photography, insofar as the seams and edges of each successive element are concealed, and the resulting composite suggests the unity of a singular view or scene. The metaphoric and symbolic force of Uelsmann’s photographs is derived from these juxtapositions, consistencies, and forms. Uelsmann’s photo-montages extend the tradition of surrealist photography pioneered by the avant-garde photographers and painters of the 1930s and 40s: positive and negative spaces are inverted and false reflections appear in earth and water, architectural elements like windows and doorways bound tapestries of sky and sand.
Jerry Uelsmann was born on June 11, 1934 in Detroit, Michigan. He holds a BFA from the Rochester Institute of Technology (1957) and both and MS and an MFA from Inidana University (1960). Uelsmann began teaching at the University of Florida, Gainesville in 1960, became a graduate research professor of art in 1974, and has since retired. His photographs are in museum collections worldwide, including the Art Institute of Chicago; Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts; Metropolitan Musuem of Art, New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and Museum of Modern Art, New York. Uelsmann is a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship recipient (1967), a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship recipient (1972), a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain, and a founding member of the American Society for Photographic Education. Jerry Uelsmann died in April of 2022.