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Jerry Uelsmann
Jerry Uelsmann

Jerry Uelsmann

Country: United States
Birth: 1934

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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He cites the mosaics in a church in Ravenna as one of his influences and is also a self-proclaimed student of Buster Keaton. He decided to become an artist after seeing the works of the Postmodernists Cindy Sherman and Jeff Koons. Muniz, like both of these artists, reworks popular imagery in his work. Muniz says that he does not believe in originals, but rather believes in individuality. Muniz works to re-purpose themes and showcase them in a different light for the viewer. Muniz is best known for recreating famous imagery from art history and pop culture with unexpected, everyday objects, and photographing them. For example, Muniz's Action Photo, After Hans Namuth (From Pictures of Chocolate), a Cibachrome print, is a Bosco Chocolate Syrup recreation of one of Hans Namuth's photographs of Jackson Pollock in his studio. The monumental series Pictures of Cars (after Ruscha) is his social commentary of the car culture of Los Angeles utilizing Ed Ruscha's 60's Pop masterpieces rendered from car ephemera. Muniz often works on a large scale and then he destroys the originals of his work and only the photo of his work remains. Muniz has spoken of wanting to make "color pictures that talked about color and also talked about the practical simplification of such impossible concepts." He also has an interest in making pictures that "reveal their process and material structure," and describes himself as having been "a willing bystander in the middle of the shootout between structuralist and post-structuralist critique." Muniz says that when he takes photographs, he intuitively searches for "a vantage point that would make the picture identical to the ones in my head before I’d made the works," so that his photographs match those mental images. He sees photography as having "freed painting from its responsibility to depict the world as fact." In Muniz's earthworks series, Pictures of Earthworks, show a strong resemblance to the 1970s Earthworks movement. However, unlike the Earthworks movement, that were influenced by ancient cultures, Muniz's series shows distinct human impact on nature. In addition to sculpting, Muniz experiments with drawing and photography, which is seen in the series Sugar Children, featured in the Museum of Modern Art's New Photography 13 show, alongside Rineke Dijikstra, An-My Le, and Kunié Sugiura, in 1997. In Sugar Children, Muniz photographed the families that worked on sugar plantations on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts. Beginning with Polaroids of several of the children of plantation workers, Muniz "drew" the images by sprinkling sugar on black paper and rephotographed these compositions. This series was met with criticism, where scholars have pointed out that he photographs of subjects continuing to live in poverty and yet can make upwards of 5 figures on these works at auction. After his Pictures in Garbage series, Muniz donated the profits, close to $50,000, from the Marat (Sebastiao) to the workers collective after it was auctioned in the UK. He also tries to make art more accessible through the use of common materials, because of his belief that the art world should not be just for the elite. Muniz stated in the documentary Waste Land, "I'm at this point in my career where I'm trying to step away from the realm of fine arts because I think it's a very exclusive, very restrictive place to be. What I want to be able to do is to change the lives of people with the same materials they deal with every day."Source: Wikipedia Originally trained as a sculptor, Muniz’s work began to take on its mature form with The Best of LIFE; he drew from memory pictures of Life magazine photographs included in the coffee table book The Best of Life after losing the book in a move. He then photographed his drawings and kept only the photographs, thereby establishing his signature working style. Muniz subsequently applied this methodology to works in the art history canon, reproducing Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa as well as iconic photographs of Marlon Brando and Marilyn Monroe using chocolate syrup and replicating a Donald Judd sculpture by using dust taken from the Whitney Museum’s halls and galleries. To make the series Pictures of Garbage, Muniz spent two years working with garbage pickers at Jardim Gramacho, an open-air dump site near Rio. He photographed several of the pickers as subjects of classical portraits, with the background details supplied by the garbage they scavenged. This effort was captured in the documentary Waste Land, which was nominated for an Academy Award. Muniz’s photographs are in many collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Museum of Modern Art; the Tate Gallery; and the Victoria and Albert Museum.Source: International Center of Photography
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