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Jerry Uelsmann
Jerry Uelsmann

Jerry Uelsmann

Country: United States
Birth: 1934 | Death: 2022

Jerry N. Uelsmann (born June 11, 1934) is an American photographer, and was the forerunner of photomontage in the 20th century in America.

Uelsmann was born in Detroit, Michigan. While attending public schools, at the age of fourteen, there sparked an interest in photography. He believed that through photography he could exist outside of himself, to live in a world captured through the lens. Despite poor grades, he managed to land a few jobs, primarily photographs of models. Eventually Uelsmann went on to earn a BA from the Rochester Institute of Technology and M.S. and M.F.A. degrees from Indiana University. Soon after, he began teaching photography at the University of Florida in 1960. In 1967, Uelsmann had his first solo exhibit at The Museum of Modern Art which opened doors for his photography career.
Uelsmann is a master printer, producing composite photographs with multiple negatives and extensive darkroom work. He uses up to a dozen enlargers at a time to produce his final images, and has a large archive of negatives that he has shot over the years. The negatives that Uelsmann uses are known to reappear within his work, acting as a focal point in one work, and background as another. Similar in technique to Rejlander, Uelsmann is a champion of 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 boundaries given by the Photo Secessionists or other realists at the time, he simply wished to share with the viewer the images from his imagination and saw photomontage as the means by which to do so. Unlike Rejlander, though, he does not seek to create narratives, but rather "allegorical surrealist imagery of the unfathomable". Uelsmann is able to subsist on grants and teaching salary, rather than commercial work.
Today, with the advent of digital cameras and Photoshop, photographers are able to create a work somewhat resembling Uelsmann's in less than a day, however, at the time Uelsmann was considered to have almost "magical skill" with his completely analog tools. At the time Uelsmann's work first came to popular attention, photos were still widely regarded as unfalsifiable documentary evidence of events. However, Uelsmann, along with Lucas Samaras, was considered an avant garde shatterer of this popular mindset and help to expand the artistic boundaries of photography.
Despite his works' affinity with digital techniques, Uelsmann continues to use traditional equipment. “I am sympathetic to the current digital revolution and excited by the visual options created by the computer. However, I feel my creative process remains intrinsically linked to the alchemy of the darkroom.”[3] Today he is retired from teaching and currently lives in Gainesville, Florida with his third wife, Maggie Taylor.[4] Uelsmann has one son, Andrew, who is a graduate student at the University of Florida. But to this day, Uelsmann still produces photos, sometimes creating more than a hundred in a single year. Out of these images, he likes to sit back and select the ten he likes the most, which is not an easy process.

(Source: en.wikipedia.org)

 

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Vachon moved to Washington, D.C. after receiving a fellowship to attend graduate school at Catholic University of America to study English literature and become a writer. As he began his studies, a few months later, he was forced to leave school due to his drinking. After his leave from graduate school, Vachon looked for work around Washington D.C., finding his first job in photography working for the Farm Security Administration's Historic Division as one of the photographers hired by Roy Stryker to document the plight of migrants during the Great Depression. In about 1938 Vachon married Millicent Leeper who was known as Penny. While Vachon was on the road working as a photographer for the FSA, he wrote daily letters to Penny, as well as to his mother. He wrote them to describe his experiences, ambitions, self-doubt, sense of humor, the obligation to the FSA, the people he met, the news he read about, and the movies he watched. In the letters, Vachon describes how he relied on Penny to support him and his work. They had three children. Penny committed suicide in 1960. Vachon married Marie Francoise Fourestier in 1961. They had two more children. Vachon served in the United States Army in 1945. Vachon's daughter, Christine Vachon, became an independent film producer in adulthood, and their son Micheal became an editor who worked with his father in later years. The FSA was a New Deal agency created in 1937 to combat rural poverty during the Great Depression in the United States. The FSA is famous for its small but highly influential photography program which ran from 1935 to 1944, and documented the challenges of rural poverty and farm life. John Vachon's first job at the FSA carried the title "assistant messenger." He was twenty-one, and had come to Washington D.C from his native Minnesota to attend The Catholic University of America. Vachon had no intention of becoming a photographer when he took the position in 1936, but as his responsibilities increased for maintaining the FSA photographic file, his interest in photography grew. The FSA sent more than forty photographers into the field and collected images of American life that would result in an archive of 165,000 FSA prints. Some FSA employees had well-established careers, while others become famous as photographers as a result of their work, including Esther Bubley, Marjory Collins, Marion Post Wolcott, Jack Delano, Arthur Rothstein, Walker Evans, Russell Lee, Gordon Parks, Charlotte Brooks, Carl Mydans, Dorothea Lange and Ben Shahn. By 1937 Vachon started to take photographs himself, and with advice from Ben Shahn, he tried out a Leica camera in and around Washington. His weekend photographs of "everything in the Potomac River valley" were clearly the work of a beginner, but Stryker lent him equipment and encouraged him to keep at it. Arthur Rothstein, who took him along on a photographic assignment to the mountains of Virginia. In October and November 1938, Vachon traveled to Nebraska on his first extensive solo trip. He photographed agricultural programs on behalf of the FSA's regional office and pursued an extra assignment from the photography project's chief, Roy Stryker: the city of Omaha. Vachon worked extensively in the midwestern and Great Plains states. As the Great Depression lessened and American involvement in the War in Europe increased, the government moved FSA photography project to the Office of War Information, and Vachon's job transferred to that agency as well, where he worked from 1942 to 1943. He later worked as a staff photographer for Standard Oil Company of New Jersey between 1943 and 1944. After serving in the army in 1944-45, in 1947 Vachon joined the Photo League, where he wrote book reviews for Photo Notes and participated in many exhibitions. Between 1945 and 1947 he photographed New Jersey and Venezuela for Standard, and Poland for the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. Vachon became a staff photographer for Life magazine, where he worked between 1947 and 1949, and for over twenty-five years beginning in 1947 at Look magazine. In 1953 Vachon took the first pictures of Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio when Monroe cured a sprained ankle near Banff, Canada. With Look closed, he had continued to work as often as he could. He photographed two stories for Vermont Life, a magazine edited at the time by his son Brian and became a freelance photographer. In 1973, he won a Guggenheim Fellowship. In 1975, he was a visiting professor at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. In Vachon's later years, he was teaching a class in photography where he kept notebooks on the main points of the day. For December 9th, 1974 he reflects on it earlier assignment he had given his students to emulate the work of FSA photographers. Vachon continued as a freelancer until cancer brought him down. Vachon died of cancer in 1975 in New York at age 60.Source: Wikipedia
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