MIAMI — Surrealist photographer and photomontage pioneer Jerry Uelsmann has died in Florida. He was 87 years old.
Uelsmann died Monday in Gainesville, where he was a professor emeritus at the University of Florida, according to a statement from the College of the Arts.
Decades before the invention of computer programs like Photoshop, Uelsmann began stitching together photographs from multiple negatives and doing extensive darkroom work to create surreal landscapes and other images.
“The work is iconic, and so is Jerry,” The School of Art and Art History’s acting director, Elizabeth Ross, said in the statement. “He taught at UF for 38 years, helping to establish the Creative Photography Program, one of the first fine art photography programs in the United States. He transformed photography. He transformed the school and he transformed us.
Uelsmann became influential in the 1960s by composing images using multiple enlargers, which are specialized transparency projectors used to produce photographic prints from negatives. Many darkroom techniques developed by Uelsmann would later find their way into photomanipulation software, although Uelsman never opted for digital tools.
“I am sensitive to the current digital revolution and enthusiastic about the visual options created by the computer”, Uelsmann wrote in his 2005 book, “Other realities”. “However, I feel that my creative process remains intrinsically linked to the alchemy of the darkroom.”
Uelsmann was born in Detroit in 1934. He received his bachelor’s degree from Rochester Institute of Technology in 1957, followed by two master’s degrees from Indiana University in 1960. The school awarded him an honorary doctorate in 2012.
Uelsmann began teaching photography at the University of Florida in 1960 and became a graduate art research professor at the university in 1974. He eventually retired but continued to live and work on his art in Gainesville .
Uelsmann received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1967 and a Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1972. He was a fellow of the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain, a founding member of the Society of Photographic Education and a former trustee of the Friends of Photography. . His work has been exhibited in over 100 solo exhibitions and his photographs are part of the permanent collections of many major museums.
Uelsmann’s photographs can be seen in the opening credits of the 1995 version of “The Outer Limits” as well as the covers of Dream Theater’s 2003 album “Train of Thought” and Bon Jovi’s 2016 album “This house is not for sale.”