Influenced by Jerry Uelsmann

Untitled 1976 aka Philosopher's Desk by Jerry Uelsmann
‘Untitled 1976’ aka ‘Philosopher’s Desk’ by Jerry Uelsmann

How was I Influenced by Jerry Uelsmann

Ever since childhood, photography has intrigued me. At first the camera was a way to overcome my shyness. It empowered me to approach people to take their pictures. I became interested in the art of photography during high school as I experimented with darkroom techniques. Ansel Adams and his zone system became my model for photographic perfection. Then something disrupted my paradigm of photography.

It was 1976 and I was attending the University of Florida. I wanted to take electives in photography. So, I went into the photography department to look around. That’s where I saw something totally unexplainable. I was looking at a surreal photographic print by Jerry Uelsmann (“Philosopher’s Desk”) which was destined to become famous. What I didn’t know was that Jerry Uelsmann, the chair of the Photography Department, was on the forefront of a movement that would forever change the definition of photography, and I was there to witness it. Uelsmann’s images and philosophy were omnipresent in the halls of the UF Photography Department. Furthermore, Uelsmann challenged his students to think about photography in non-traditional means by inviting speakers who were also experimenting with the medium and breaking all the norms.

What is Jerry Uelsmann Most Famous For Doing

The late Jerry Uelsmann (1934-2022) was a pioneering American photographer who is best known for his surreal and dreamlike images created through the use of multiple negatives and darkroom techniques. Jerry Uelsmann was a master of a process he has named “post-visualization”. He has spent 50 years photographing places, objects, figures, nudes, rocks, fields, skies, clouds — the list is seemingly endless. Yet he doesn’t print a single one of them. He layers many images together onto a single print.

Self Reflection, by Jerry Uelsmann, 2009

His work has had a profound influence on modern photography, and he is credited with expanding the possibilities of the medium and challenging traditional notions of what constitutes a photograph. Uelsmann’s work was initially met with resistance from the photography establishment, which was reluctant to accept images that were not created in a strictly “straight” or documentary style. However, his work eventually gained widespread recognition, and he is now considered one of the most important photographers of the 20th century. Uelsmann’s influence can be seen in the work of many contemporary photographers, who have adopted his use of multiple negatives and darkroom techniques to create their own unique visions.

Voyager, by Jerry Uelsmann, 2008
Voyager, by Jerry Uelsmann, 2008

Uelsmann’s Lasting Message

Jerry Uelsmann was a groundbreaking photographer who had a profound influence on modern photography. His work has inspired photographers to experiment with new ways of seeing and representing the world, and it has helped to expand the possibilities of the medium. In addition to his technical mastery of image manipulation in the darkroom, Uelsmann brought forth a creative philosophy which also runs against the mainstream ideas of the art world. He refrained from giving his images an interpretation (artist statement) and went as far as to leave many untitled so as not to imply a meaning. He desired the viewer to give his art meaning from their own personal experiences. I remember Jerry telling people that it was not important to be able to articulate meaning to your artwork because some meanings can not be spoken, art must be felt and experienced to acquire meaning. What is important, is to emote feelings, without intellectualization, through your artwork. I believe that is the most profound influence Jerry Uelsmann had upon my creative process.