Pioneer of Surreal Photography

Jerry Uelsmann is a pioneer of surreal photography. He began assembling photographs from multiple negatives decades before digital tools like Photoshop were available. Back in the day, he was even friends with legendary nature photographer Ansel Adams and taught workshops with him in Yosemite for years.

Uelsmann stated assembling images from multiple negatives back in the early 1950's. His darkroom expertise allowed him to create surreal images using as many as seven enlargers to expose a single print. The process takes about eight to ten hours from start to finish.

“I had become restless with trying to find an image that satisfied me in camera,” he explains. “The idea that the creative gesture in photography was when you clicked the shutter was popular when I was a graduate student.

“One day while I was waiting for some prints to wash, I looked across at the enlargers and thought to myself that if I had the negatives in different enlargers and simply moved the paper, the speed with which I could explore things or line them up would increase a hundred times. That was the moment that changed the way I worked with multiple images.”

Uelsmann was a teacher for 38 years and, ironically, his wife Maggie Taylor is a major digital artist. He believes that it is equally difficult to produce great images no matter what tools you use. “I see the incredible options that Photoshop provides, but the bottom line is the technique has to fit with ideas and images,” he says.

Jerry Uelsmann's website
Interview via [Berman Graphics]

Thanks for the tip, Jina!

Eugene Kim

Eugene Kim is the Editor-in-Chief of My Modern Met. In May, 2008, he co-founded the website to create one big city that celebrates creative ideas. His mission is to promote a positive culture by spotlighting the best sides of humanity—from the lighthearted and fun to the thought-provoking and enlightening.
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