Jerry Uelsmann (born 1934) Apocalypse II, 1967 Gelatin silver print 10 3/4 x 13 5/8 in (27.2 x 34.5 cm) © Jerry Uelsmann

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Enjoy this collection of photographs by Jerry Uelsmann.

Learn more about Jerry Uelsmann here.

View 12 Great Photographs From Great Photographers.

View more in The Essential Collection Of Documentaries On Photographers.

Read more in The Essential Collection Of Quotes By Photographers.

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Here’s a selection of my favorite quotes by photographer Jerry Uelsmann.

“Photography is just light remembering itself.” – Jerry Uelsmann

“The camera is a license to explore.” – Jerry Uelsmann

“There are no uninteresting things. There are just uninterested people.” – Jerry Uelsmann

“I try to begin working with no preconceived ideas.” – Jerry Uelsmann

“When the entire process becomes a prescribed ritual that does not allow for spontaneous variations and reactions, the vitality of the medium and our relation to it suffers.” – Jerry Uelsmann

“Let us not be afraid to allow for “post-visualization.” By post-visualization I refer to the willingness on the part of the photographer to revisualize the final image at any point in the entire photographic process.” – Jerry Uelsmann

“It is the illusion of knowledge, not ignorance, that keeps one from growing.” – Jerry Uelsmann

“The goal of the artist is not to resolve life’s mysteries, but to deepen them.” – Jerry Uelsmann

“In the arts there are many right answers.” – Jerry Uelsmann

“The truth is that one is more frequently blessed with ideas while working.” – Jerry Uelsmann

“I’ve learned over the years that when you get a clue to another possibility to follow it through…” – Jerry Uelsmann

“The camera is a fluid way of encountering that other reality.” – Jerry Uelsmann

“My visual quest is driven by a desire to create a universe capable of supporting feelings and ideas.” – Jerry Uelsmann

“I think of many of my photographs as being obviously symbolic but not symbolically obvious. There isn’t any specific correlation between the symbols in this image and any content that I have in mind.” – Jerry Uelsmann

“One of the major changes in attitude that occurred in the world of art as we moved from the nineteenth into the twentieth century was that the twentieth century artist became more involved with personal expression than with celebrating exclusively the values of the society or the church. Along with this change came a broader acceptance of the belief that the artist can invent a reality that is more meaningful than the one that is literally given to the eye. I subscribe enthusiastically to this.” – Jerry Uelsmann

“The contemporary artist…is not bound to a fully conceived, previsioned end. His mind is kept alert to in-process discovery and a working rapport is established between the artist and his creation. While it may be true, as Nathan Lyons stated, ‘The eye and the camera see more than the mind knows,’ is it not also conceivable that the mind knows more than the eye and the camera can see?” – Jerry Uelsmann

“All knowledge is self-reflective.” – Jerry Uelsmann

“I’m really very concerned with helping to create an attitude of freedom and daring toward the craft of photography.” – Jerry Uelsmann

“Ultimately, my hope is to amaze myself. The anticipation of discovering new possibilities becomes my greatest joy.” – Jerry Uelsmann

“I have gradually confused photography with life.” – Jerry Uelsmann

“The creative process can sustain itself throughout the entire celebration of photography.” – Jerry Uelsmann

Read my conversation with Jerry Uelsmann here.

Read more Photographer’s Quotes here.

“He experiments in a darkroom. She composes on a computer screen. Together, husband-and-wife artists Jerry Uelsmann and Maggie Taylor create haunting, layered dreamscapes that push the boundaries of photography’s possibilities. This documentary from lynda.com explores both the technical and emotional aspects of Jerry’s and Maggie’s work, from the composition to the criticism, with insight from other preeminent voices in photography.”

Find out more about this 1.5 hour documentary at Lynda.com.


Since the 1950’s Jerry Uelsmann has created his surreal photographs entirely in the traditional black-and-white darkroom combining multiple negatives seamlessly into new visual realities, ones that didn’t exist before the camera eye at one moment in time but were found in the mind’s eye over a lifetime.

Many view his images as a continuance of the surreal photography pioneered by avante-garde photographers in the 1930’s. While influenced by this movement, he feels his work has a kinship with a larger visionary sensibility that has risen and fallen cyclically throughout the history of art or which could perhaps better be characterized as the history of consciousness.

Absurd only to the conscious mind, more inquisitive than critical, his work is neither automatic or entirely random, but rather driven by felt connections as opposed to ones that are intellectually prefigured. Though punctuated with moments of humor and horror, the dominant tendency in his body of work is towards encountering and collecting moments of sublimity.

Freely mixing archetypal images drawn from the natural world and architectural images (with a particular emphasis on museums and libraries both repositories of information, surrogate minds if you will) his work suggests a continual exchange between our insides and outsides. Transference, projection, repression, fixation, conflict; the contents and processes of the soul are laid out on the surfaces of his images for all to see. Occasionally Uelsmann recycles the same images creating multiple compositions from them, revealing additional connections and suggesting the continual internal stirring necessary for psychological metamorphosis.

For me, as much today as when I was a child, long before Photoshop, Jerry Uelsmann was a shining example of possibilities. He used a relatively young medium with a developing tradition in a different way. He created his own visual language to build a very personal visual world one image at a time – and then shared it with us. His is a different kind of work. He does the soul’s work through poetry rather than the mind’s work through non-fiction.

Read my extended conversation with Jerry Uelsmann here.

Find out more about my influences here.

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Jerry Uelsmann’s 1983 nude is a very influential photograph for me. It makes direct what is typically only implied in some ‘straight’ photographs – that mankind is not separate from nature. The transparent merger of figure and ground is poetically rich in so many ways and on so many levels.

No matter how subtle, traces of color change both visual and psychological dynamics in an image. Choice of paper (the color of the white) and toning (the color of highlights, midtones and shadows) can offer both technical and expressive opportunities. The warm toning of the print in my collection seems particularly appropriate. It’s not a heavy toning, but the print is definitely not neutral. The red of the warm tone seems appropriate for flesh. It gives the image a more approachable feeling, perhaps even a touch of romanticism. It makes the subject seem nearer to the viewer; a cooler color would seem more distant. It changes the impression of ambient temperature and time of day; a cooler color would seem closer to winter and twilight or dawn.

The image is also clarifies the differences between analog and digital processes. The substantial burning/darkening at the top of the print hold the eye in the image longer and minimizes what could be distracting area of contrast if it were brighter, but the way the burning reduces midtone and shadow detail in the region calls attention to technique, where it could be minimized or eliminated in a digital process. I wonder if this image were remastered digitally if the artist would decide to reveal traces of grass in the face, perhaps not as much as is revealed in the body or if an attempt would be made to maintain the volumetric aspects of the body where it is? Neither of these technical considerations diminish the work. We know the artist is working within the limits of a particular medium – masterfully. Still, asking these questions and making comparisons and contrasts with other possibilities offer us more insight into the artist’s vision at large and what he his trying to communicate more specifically in this visual statement. This is only one of so many other reasons why media matters.

(There’s a lot to be learned from looking at originals, which is why we look at masterworks from my collection in all of my  digital printing workshops.)

Find my comments on other Masterworks In My Collection here.

Learn more in my digital printing workshops.

Sometimes you find your own voice through observing your responses to other people’s work.

One of my visual journals is a collection of images that I appreciate. When you bring enough images together new patterns emerge. This was certainly the case for me when I sifted through my favorite photographs of nudes and found a thread that tied together works by Jerry Uelsmann, Emmet Gowin, Harry Callahan, and Ruth Bernhard. All four of the photographs I had selected used double exposure to merge the figure with the landscape. It wasn’t that these works were typical of each artist’s work; Jerry Uelsmann who would be best know for this kind of work offers many such images; Harry Callahan was highly experimental and offered only a handful of these kinds of treatments; Ruth Berhard produced fewer; Emmet Gown only produced even fewer. What had been revealed through the process of creating this collection was my own interest in a specific kind of imagery and a particular theme.

Overtly stated in my own photographs of nudes in varying degrees of transparency, the theme of man and nature as one runs through all of my work. Whether subtly or dramatically, directly or indirectly, I’m interested in all types of imagery that challenges conventional notions of separateness and offer a vision of unity.

What shared themes can you identify when observing your own influences?

Read more about my influences here.


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