Jerry Uelsmann

Written by
Kevin LJ, Professional Photographer

Reviewed by
Chris Johnson, TPG Editor

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About Jerry Uelsmann

Nationality: United States

Born: June 11, 1934 - April 4, 2022

Jerry Uelsmann is best known for his surreal photo composites. These works, both pre and post-Photoshop, were all created only with analog media. He described his creative process as a journey of discovery.

Uelsmann grew up in a house with a photographic darkroom in the basement. His father was a keen hobbyist and shared his passion for photography with his two sons, Jerry and Robert. He went on to earn two degrees in the arts from Indiana University.

Working with negatives he'd exposed, Uelsmann experimented extensively in the darkroom. Combining images, masking, and exposing different areas to create unique prints. His work was an extension of the surrealist tradition of the 1930s and 40s. Producing his photomontages often involved working with ten or more enlargers at one time. Many of the negatives he reused many times. He maintained a large archive of negatives, some of which frequently appeared in the composites he created.

"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." He stuck with his analog roots, preferring film and light-sensitive paper and working in a dark room rather than transitioning to Lightroom and Photoshop and digitally manipulating his photo composites.

His work was well received by many fine art critics, yet some felt it was too manipulated to be photography. This is somewhat of a moot point now that almost all digital photography undergoes some sort of manipulation.


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