Jerry Uelsmann

Jerry Uelsmann

1934 - 2022

Jerry Norman Uelsmann was born in Detroit to Norman and Florence Uelsmann on June 11, 1934. At the age of...

Jerry Uelsmann


Jerry Norman Uelsmann was born in Detroit to Norman and Florence Uelsmann on June 11, 1934. At the age of 12, Jerry began taking drawing lessons at the Detroit Institute of Arts Museum, where he became fascinated by Van Gogh’s, “Self Portrait.”

He became a photographer in high school, where he worked in a photography studio for the student newspaper. By the time he entered the Rochester Institute of Technology in upstate New York, his goal was to be a portrait photographer. However, under the influence of photography mentors like Minor White (who called the camera a “metamorphosing machine,” Mr. Uelsmann said), he began to see the medium in a whole new light with endless possibilities.

Uelsmann graduated with a BFA degree in 1957, and continued on to earn a master’s in audio visual communications and a MFA degree in photography at Indiana University three years later. From 1960 to 1998, he taught photography at the University of Florida in Gainesville. It was at that university where he first made use of multiple enlargers, an innovative approach that accelerated his creation of photomontages. In 1967, he received a Guggenheim fellowship in photography and had his first solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

In an interview with The Daily News Of New York, John Szarkowski, the director of MoMA’s photography department, said that Uelsmann dared to question the finality of a picture once it had been taken.

“He meditates on his pictures, experiments with print techniques, recombining pictures,” Mr. Szarkowski said, “and the result is truly artistic and new.”

Uelsmann’s work has been published countless times and his major monographs include, “Uelsmann: Process and Perception” (1985); “Silver Meditations” (1988) and “Uelsmann Untitled: A Retrospective” (2014, with Carol McCusker).

And while Uelsmann was aware of the existence of Photoshop, a digital program developed by Adobe in the late 1980s, he refused to use it and stayed loyal to the darkroom. He used a computer, but only for email.

“I am sympathetic to the current digital revolution and excited by the visual options created by the computer,” Uelsmann wrote in his 2005 book, “Other Realities.” However, I feel my creative process remains intrinsically linked to the alchemy of the darkroom.”

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

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