The Alpha Tree
The Alpha Tree
The Alpha Tree

Jerry Uelsmann

The Alpha Tree


Original Gelatin Silver Photograph

Image dimensions: 10.5" x 13
Mounted dimensions: 16" x 20"

Pristine condition

certified authentic
Add to Collection — $6,000
The Alpha Tree
The Alpha Tree
The Alpha Tree



Original Gelatin Silver photograph by Jerry Uelsmann, "The Alpha Tree." Individually handmade by Jerry Uelsmann from multiple negatives using multiple enlargers with fiber-based photographic paper. Corner mounted on archival museum board and signed/dated “J.N.U. 2002” in pencil in lower right. Artist’s stamp, title and signature on verso of photograph.


The HD Video of the actual work in question has been provided as a visual condition report. If you would like a written condition report in addition to the HD video, please


Uelsmann was a pioneer in surrealist photography and photomontage long before the age of Photoshop. His composite photographs were made from multiple negatives and extensive darkroom work. He used up to a dozen enlargers at a time to create one single artwork. Uelsmann was known to reuse negatives as well – acting as a focal point in one work, and background as another. Similar in technique to Oscar Gustave Rejlander, Uelsmann championed the idea that the final image need not be tied to a single negative, but may be composed of many. During the mid-twentieth century, when photography was still being defined, Uelsmann didn’t care about the lines drawn by the f/64 Group, or other realists, he simply wished to share his imagination and saw photomontage as the means by which to do so. However, unlike Rejlander, he did not seek to create narratives, but rather “allegorical surrealist imagery of the unfathomable.”

portrait of jerry uelsmann in his darkroom by lauren bacho


The most popular black and white process of the 20th century was gelatin silver, in which the image consists of silver metal particles suspended in a gelatin layer. Gelatin silver papers are commercially manufactured by applying an emulsion of light-sensitive silver salts in gelatin to a sheet of paper coated with a layer of baryta, a white pigment mixed with gelatin. The sensitized paper, generally fiber-based, is exposed to light through a negative and then made visible in a chemical reducing solution. William Henry Fox Talbot introduced the basic chemical process in 1839, but the more complex gelatin silver process did not become the most common method of black-and-white darkroom photography until the late 1910s. Because the silver image is suspended in a gelatin emulsion that rests on a pigment-coated paper, gelatin silver can be sharply defined and highly detailed in comparison to platinum or palladium, in which the image is absorbed directly into the fibers of the paper.
Cross section of Gelatin Silver paper