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He experiments in a darkroom. She composes on a computer screen. Together, husband-and-wife artists Jerry Uelsmann and Maggie Taylor broke free of traditional notions of photography to create haunting, layered dreamscapes that challenge the medium's possibilities. Step inside their Florida compound to see their complementary work and contrasting processes—and find out how they overcame the early skepticism of their art-world peers to become luminaries in their field.
(music playing) Jerry Uelsmann: The evocative powers of art is very important, how it evokes a feeling or response. You hope that somehow, because you're being authentic and sharing depth as best you can, this kind of imagery that you're creating, that other people will sense that and find a way of relating.
(music playing) Maggie Taylor: For me, art is something that is just part of my everyday life, so I can't imagine living without it. People come up with their own stories and their own ways of relating to the artwork. It kind of gives you a little bit of a window into other people's lives in some way and helps you reflect on your own life. (music playing) Ted Orland: Jerry created a universe of his own.
He makes work that talks back to him and then he listens to what it says. (music playing) Phillip Prodger: You could say that Jerry was ahead of his time, that he anticipated Photoshop before Photoshop came on the scene. Because he was interested in the psychological aspects of the photograph and the expressive possibilities of the medium, the work has a resonance that transcends its time. (music playing) Evon Streetman: Neither of them are dealing with photographic imagery as fact.
I think that that's one of the real interesting things in Maggie's work. The intelligence is what totally separates it from a majority of digital work. (music playing) Russell Brown: Like a light beam coming down out of the sky, in one of Jerry's images, revealing light on the water. The colors of Maggie's work coming out and taking you into her world.
I think they're both the most amazing modern-day surreal storytellers that I know. (music playing) Jerry: The act of creating images is still, to me, very important, and I relish the opportunity and am honored by the fact that I have this environment where I'm allowed to make images.
Maggie: Jerry and I really like images and we like objects, and that's the reason that we make art. (music playing) Our agenda is just to make stuff that we feel is well crafted and beautiful and has a resonance for us. (music playing) Jerry: We're not functioning as commercial people, so we don't have to please anybody other than ourselves.
And you know, I've said many times my goal is to amaze myself. You can't say, today I'm going to amaze myself. You say, today I'm going to start making marks on paper. That's the way it begins. And it's after the fact that you look back and think, well, wait a minute. (music playing) Maggie and I have to invent our realities. I happen to use photography.
Maggie happens to use the computer. You know, it comes from this deep commitment to things that you believe in, of the filtering through who you are, what your concerns are, that it's not based on the craft. From my personal point of view, if when someone looks at my photograph, if their first thought is, how did he make this? I feel I've failed. I don't mind that being the second question. I'm used to that.
But their first response should be some authentic "gee, this is weird," or "I had a dream like that." or "boy, that makes me feel lonely or happy." You know, it's an authentic human response. But photographers, in general, when they saw early work, they would talk in terms of the technique, but the technique is not the image; the technique supports the image. This is like your sense of craft. It's that kind of thing that opens up possibilities to create, in my case, visual phenomena that was unachievable before--certainly before Photoshop--but with traditional photography.
Phillip Prodger: There's a debate that's been raging in photography since almost the day of it's invention, about whether photography qualifies to be an art form or whether it is more of a commercial tool. And at the time that Jerry came on the scene, those debates were raging as loud as they ever have. Keith Davis: In the 1950s, photography was still dominated by a very sophisticated notion of using the camera to bring back vignettes of true worldly experience, as in the work of Cartier-Bresson, or the work of W. Gene Smith.
Peter Bunnell: You had an environment in which the photography community was trying to get over the heavy impress of social realism and photojournalism that developed in the '30s and during the war. But you had then the emergence of another whole generation and a whole different area of coverage, and probably the most exemplary person in that regard would be Ansel Adams. And obviously there's nothing more photographic than an Ansel Adams landscape. Keith: So, we have these interesting currents, this kind of classical mode of using photography to bring back the vignettes of real experience.
It's in that context that Jerry's work comes to the fore and really pushes this notion of the straight photograph into this entirely new arena. (music playing) Ted: Jerry's rise into the art world is one of those amazing, almost unique stories.
The gist of it is that in 1960, or thereabouts, he was still a graduate student under Henry Holmes Smith, at the University of Indiana I believe. And five years later, he was having a show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Peter: The Museum of Modern Art was the mecca. That was the place. There was one gallery, called Limelight, which was actually a coffee shop at Sheraton Square in New York, where in the back were four panels hanging from the ceiling, and that was it. That was it.
There was no 59th Street, 57th Street. Keith: John Szarkowski became curator at The Modern in 1962. John had a very powerful and distinct vision about what photography was all about. He saw photography as a uniquely special visual language. So, the program he put together, beginning in '62, had enormous impact on how the field at large thought about the medium. Jerry: I called the photography of Museum of Modern Art and Szarkowski answered the phone.
I mean this wouldn't have happened today or later in his life, you know? And I said, "I'm Jerry Uelsmann and I teach at the University of Florida. I'm going to be coming to New York, and I'd like to be able to schedule an appointment to look at some of the photographs in your study room." It was there called their study room. He said, "Oh, yes." He says, "I know your work." And he said, "Well, why don't you bring some work with you when you come?" And I thought "oh, hey, this is for sure. I'm glad they do that." So, I went to New York and we sat down at a table, and I showed him my work.
And John--it won't make sense because people don't won't know ahead--John had this-- he is one of the slower talkers of America. And he loved to hold his glasses and go like this, and he'd look at these things. And you know, you just don't know what he's thinking, and he'd go to the next one, and like that and mmhm, make little sounds and all this kind of stuff. And you're sitting there. And finally, he turned, he says, "You know, I'd like to show this work here at The Modern." I'll tell you, my knees were ready to burst.
I'm like, oh, my God. Well, yeah, that would be nice, you know? It was a really wonderful experience in that once you could say that to people, that was something that they could recognize. "Oh, you had a show at The Modern?" And to this day, people find that on my credentials and that impresses them. (music playing) Keith: It was the peak.
To have a one-person show at The Modern in those days was as much as any photographer could expect. There was no other place to go. And especially given the nature of Jerry's work, the unconventional, non-purist nature of his work made, I think, that exhibition all the more significant. Peter: First of all, of course, it was extraordinary, the fact that John Szarkowski did it, because, in fact, John Szarkowski's attitude about photography, much more formalist, and much more straightforward.
But he sensed in Uelsmann's work this incredible technique, which I then take it back to his early training at RIT. (music playing) We were at RIT, Rochester Institute of Technology, together. RIT, at that time, was just becoming one of the major schools of photography.
That is to say it had only offered a two-year associate degree, and so that would be then when you would graduate, so to speak, from a sound, technical basis. And I bring this up specifically in our context of Jerry because that's where he's at. I mean, he knows how to do it. Jerry: Initially, when I went to RIT, I really thought I was on the two-year track to become a portrait photographer.
They had the basic courses. Then they had these technical courses like sensitometry and photo chemistry. And to my surprise, I did well in those courses. I mean, at one point, I considered that maybe I wanted to be one of the tech majors. But there was something fascinating about developing film that had been exposed at random exposures and then taking a densotometer and plotting the curves for how the--I mean it's, it's complex science, but it was emerging as a science at that time.
On the other hand, when I realize that that particular program didn't involve taking photographs anymore--you had mechanically exposed paper and scientific things to deal with--I really focused on the portrait part. Keith: RIT, back in those days, was a technical school, but it was a unique technical school. Minor White's teaching up there for at least a while. Ralph Hattersley, other people like that, and the adjacent nature of the Eastman House there gave both this incredible technical background, and a real sense of history, a real sense of what the medium had meant to previous generations of picture makers.
And so that combination was pretty special. It was not something you could really get in perhaps any other program at the time. Peter: Minor White was a photographer who was brought in, literally, to teach first-year and last-year students. He had a broad awareness of the history of art, the history of art photography, and he was a significant contributing artist photographer in his own right. Jerry: Many people had trouble because he was just so from another planet.
I remember very vividly at one point he showed an image and he said, "Now, when I made this, the spirit came down." And I'm like, "I'm from inner-city Detroit, so excuse me. I want to know about this spirit coming down." You know, he'd give assignments. The one that sticks out very much for me, and that reminds me of him all the time, is doorways of ominous portent. And I'm going back to getting the dictionary out to look what that means. But what it does, it gives you an insight into that photographs can function in a metaphorical way; they can function beyond just what is literally replicated within the image.
One time I was showing him a contact sheet, and I'd had, for whatever reason, there was someone standing and there was a black, dark doorway, and then the next shot was somebody close up. It had a dark background. So anyway, I'm showing this contact sheet to Minor White, and we used to use these cardboard L's that, you know, you go around. And he said, "Well, I think you should print this one." And I said, "Minor, that goes across the line. That's that other shot there." He said, "Well,that doesn't matter." So, the idea that you get permission to do that, what's wrong with that? So, you know, that let me explore having black backgrounds so that things could be--go from one frame to the another.
You decide later what the frame would be. I mean, there's just so many little incidences like that that were little clues that I was ready to explore. Jerry Uelsmann: I could easily take--this is with the figure against the black background, which is clear film. And where is this other? Here's the one with these. So that you know, you could print that in one enlarger as a single straight negative, but would have a multiple-exposure effect.
And I knew enough about film and all that that these things were sort of a logical way of thinking about it, of dealing with black. And from that I moved to--I used to have an old Bronica. And I had. I can turn this off now. This is just simply black felt paper, which I could mask at my camera lens. And when you block--we used to put this in a lens shade. I'll make this closer. But if this were a lens shade, this here would be right against the camera lens, and because it's against the camera lens, it would produce a soft edge.
If I shot a background and then rotated this 180 degrees, I could shoot a foreground and get it to blend on the same piece of film. But that became challenging, because you'd suddenly find an interesting background, old building, but then where is the foreground? Then soon I just left it blank and then later would sandwich the negatives. And this is a contact sheet, which doesn't show up very well. But this particular tree here, you can see how it fades. It's two identical pictures of that same tree now.
And now this is the way they were taken, but then if I flip this one and put it on top of that one and line it up, you could then have a symmetrical image that you could print in one enlarger. (music playing) When I first began multiple printing in the darkroom, I was raised in darkrooms in Rochester Institute of Technology, a high-tech institution where there was one enlarger in the darkroom. So what I would do, I'd take my piece of photo paper and make a little drawing where the head was going to fall off this thing.
Take a piece of paper, print the head and dodge, like, by hand. Then I'd put that--and I had to mark it so I knew which side went in. Change negatives, refocus, dah-dah-dah-dah, what might be the foreground. Get my drawing out. Try to line it up. And then the developer, I'm watching this, and nine times out of ten, it's a little bit this way, it's a little bit that way. I worked that way for about, it had to be, maybe, I don't know, six months. And I've got--and I was in the university darkroom here, which had eight enlargers in it.
So I had the prints washing in a little-- they used to have these spinner-type washes there--one day after wasting twenty sheets of paper to get two good prints, and I'm looking at these other enlargers. And suddenly I go, oh my God. Once I had the enlargers, negatives in different enlargers, if the one was a half inch off, I would move the easel. I could mark it easier. Once I had the exposures, I didn't have to keep changing negatives and the exposures. I mean, the speed with which I could explore increased a hundred fold.
It was a major breakthrough at the time. Peter: He becomes such an incredible craftsman in technique, and many of them were very simple negative sandwiches. I mean and so it's no big deal to do that. It's a big deal to decide to do it and then secondarily, to do it so well that it doesn't become obvious, but it becomes part of the entire visual experience. Jerry: This is the print that we're going to create today in the darkroom.
It involves five different negatives. The sky is one negative of this clouds. This rocky foreground with the mountain is the second negative. The silhouetted figure, transparent figure, is a third negative. The face here on the rock, embedded in the rock, is a fourth negative. This chair is actually treated like it's a negative, but it's just two torn pieces of black paper put in an enlarger to create that stripe.
We'll take a piece of paper, and this is now printing the foreground. And I've got it set. I can control the contrast. So I'm making this a little more contrasty. And what I'm going to do--those of you who don't know about photography, a little hard to understand--if I go to the raw white light, I can darken that foreground. So that foreground I want to be darkened. And then I go to, this is the sky negative.
It doesn't require any dodging, so once I get that in this easel, it's just a matter of letting it print. And I also have it at a higher contrast. And this is a little longer exposure. Normally, exposures are shorter. This has that transparent figure, and this will be a very short exposure where you can see that figure. All right. And then this is the figure being embedded on the rock, and this is also a very short exposure.
Sometimes I lighten this area a little bit. And then this is the chair in the sky. And I know like to keep it light on one end, so this does involve dodging. So I want to keep it darker up here. This is just giving more light to the top and less to the bottom, so it sort of fades in and out. But I want it blank it down. Now, the most magical part of the process is when you put this into the developer and-- it helps if you talk to it.
It should go two minutes. This is what keeps you going. Once--sometimes the first time you see this, you're hooked for life. I still think it's magic, after all these years. Watching this thing come up in the developer is just amazing to me. And I've been doing it for over sixty years so... And at this point, truly, you're focused on, do I like this image? What else can I do? I actually did a bunch of variations, but this is the version that I'm happiest with.
And after working on this image for almost a week, I came up with a title, which I call, The Forgotten Promise. You do have a lot of controls, a lot more then people realize, in terms of increasing the contrast of an image or decreasing the contrast or just with light, making things a lot darker. I didn't want the eye to be pulled off in the foreground. I wanted to keep it dark here, go through the rocks, and get the sense of distance in the background.
There's this dialog, an ongoing dialog with those materials, that causes those images to occur. You don't have to complete the image instantaneously. I mean, you can. There is nothing wrong with that. But there is this ongoing process that is the dominant way of working in all the other arts. No one else gets that instant picture or that instant sculpture, or, you know, like that. There is that time frame there where there is this reinvestigation of the means.
I mean, if you think about it, instead of if every time we said photography, we said light-sensitive materials, that's a whole different concept. Now wait a minute. It's like you've got this thing and if you-- if I put my hand there and flash the lens it's going to leave the--I mean, it's, this is what I'm using to create these images. (music playing) Peter: It should be understood, of course, that Jerry, realizing, in fact, that there was probably little future in making personally expressive photographs, so he actually was enrolled in audio visual education at Indiana University, and it was then, through Henry Holmes Smith, that he was, in effect, discovered.
Phillip: When Jerry left Indiana, he almost immediately went to the University of Florida, where he founded one of the first MFA programs in the country in photography. Jerry: The teaching job, for many years, was my main support system. You know, people weren't buying photographs, and I'd get occasional fees for lecturing, but the more, I suppose, important, from my perspective, part of it was is constant interacting with young people.
To me, this was the most formative time because suddenly, then, I'm surrounded by young artists and they're painters, sculptures, you know, we're having coffee every day, we're drawing on napkins, we're talking about our lives. We pile into a station wagon that one of us has and drive straight through to New York, taking turns driving 24 hours so we can go see the latest shows that are going on. Yeah, but there was a kind of bonding and being part of the scene that was really important to me.
Evon Streetman: I think one of the things I admired about Jerry tremendously was, at the time that we were teaching together, he had accrued a level of fame that was absolutely enviable among photographers. And Jerry would bring back the bad reviews and read them to the graduate class. And for him, it was like, that was as much a part of his teaching as anything else.
It's if you're going to be an artist, if you're really going to stick your neck out, if you're going to put it our there for the public, don't think for a moment that someone isn't going to occasionally stomp on it. You either have to have, or you have to develop, a tough enough hide that you can accept that and go right on with what you're doing. When you think of how easily you can be maimed by someone's saying a comment that--I had this happen once early in my career.
This would have been in that same time period in my career, in the '60s, where I had done a lot of images that had foregrounds and backgrounds. And someone, quite innocently--I don't even remember who did it--they said, you know, you've done a lot of foregrounds and backgrounds, and that little thing bugged me for years. I'd go in the darkroom and I'd start on something--well, Jerry you've done a lot of foregrounds and backgrounds. And it took me a while to get the mental leap that made me realize that that was a form, and the analogy I make now is that it's like the haiku or the sonnet.
They're forms of poetry, but they don't limit the content. Because of the fact that I wasn't around traditional photographers, all the experimental things I did I got support for. (music playing) Ted: Jerry had a way of orchestrating the darkroom as if he were doing a dance. Keith: He was trying to expand the language of the medium, to make pictures that did justice to the truly broad potentials of what happens when light hits silver.
Photography is that primal, light hitting silver, and that's such a beautiful and sort of poetic thought. I think that he really loved that and wanted to see how far one could push that. If part of photography consists of that openness to experimentation, Jerry is just the perfect exemplar of a person who works that way. Peter: They're about ideas that are different from simply transposing reality.
These would be shocking to people. They would be unusual to people. (music playing) Jerry: I can remember in the early '60s going to New York and I'd see friends and other photographers up there, and they'd look at my work, and the comment that just always threw me was they'd say, "well this this is interesting, but this is not photography." Excuse me, I'm in the darkroom for hours. I buy everything at the camera store.
I mean, what am I supposed to call this? Phillip: Jerry's photography plays on one of the very special characteristics of photography, and that is to be convincing, to show something, ostensibly, the way it really looks in life. And because Jerry inverts that and really makes things that are completely implausible come to life, his photography was seen as somehow dishonest. Keith: It seemed to violate expected notions about this truth-telling nature of the medium, and it did.
(music playing) Ted: I actually don't think the work was controversial. It was viewed as different. It was viewed as unique. I think it was just the sheer force of Jerry's vision that people could not ignore. (music playing) Keith: He was exploring the inherent nature of the medium in a way that no one else had done.
So, controversy is, to some degree, a sign of success. It's a sign that you have actually covered some new territory, that you have actually thought about the medium in a fresh way. (music playing) Phillip: There's an idea that comes out of photographic modernism, and even before, that somehow the photographer should know in advance the effects he or she is looking for when they click the shutter, so that they control every phase of the process and they're seeing what the viewer will ultimately see. Jerry changed all that.
He said, "Instead of previsualizing a photograph, we should postvisualize it." Instead of looking at the negative as a final result, he looks at it as a departure point. You start with the negative, and that becomes the basis for improvisation and experimentation going forward. Jerry: The dominant aesthetic, well, what we learned or we thought was the dominant aesthetic--it probably still is--is the decisive moment.
That was coined by Cartier-Bresson. I tried to imply that those same decisive moments can occur in the context of the darkroom, that the darkroom was essentially a visual research lab. If you just do the mental gear shifting required to think that way, because I've had decisive moments when suddenly, whoa, that tree will blend to that building. Now, that's a decisive moment. When you think about the whole world of painting, where we're talking about similar use of materials-- paint, oil on canvas, whatever-- think of the breadth of the imagery that occurs there.
And when we're looking at paintings, we're not talking about, well, Leonardo had a different kind of paint that he was using. You know, it was his vision. It's the celebration of the vision that we're talking about. (music playing) Evon: I look back, and I always felt there was a certain unsettled disquiet in Jerry.
He never seemed, never seemed totally at ease. I don't mean he was uncomfortable with people, certainly not. But he never seemed totally comfortable with himself, in himself. There was always something that was missing he was always looking for, and he found it. (music playing) Maggie: I had a pretty typical midwestern upbringing that didn't necessarily involve anything with the arts per se, but lots of sports and outdoor activities.
(music playing) And for me, reading was fabulous. I remember asking my mom to take me to the public library in St. Pete, Florida, so I could get more science fiction books on a regular basis. (music playing) And I was just allowed to watch tons of t.v.
All my free time when I was at home, I watched television, hours and hours every day, all kinds of sitcoms and reruns and Star Trek. (music playing) And I felt like these were kind of my friends; in some way they were people that I was interested in and they had stories to tell that were interesting, so I wanted to kind of be part of their family or be in their world in some way.
And I also got interested in drama while I was in high school, being in plays. The idea of simply playing a totally different role, just getting out of yourself and being something totally different and trying be convincing at it. But I was never particularly good at theater. I just liked participating in it. When I went to Yale, as I was going through the application process I thought, here's a school that basically does feature a good drama school.
Once I got there, all of my roommates were very interested in singing and dancing and participating in singing groups and theatrical things, and I realized I don't have those skills at all. I can't sing or dance. I am not up to doing this. But at the same time, it opened a lot of other possibilities, because then I got to think about, wow, what else, what would I want to major in? And luckily for me, at that time, you had several years to decide. And I had a lot of friends who were taking other classes, like photography.
And in particular, I had two friends who were taking beginning photography and telling me how interesting it was to go into the Art and Architecture building, which was kind of a mystery to me, and go down into the basement and develop pictures. And I went into my first photo class basically thinking, this will be an easy credit. It will be the opposite of all my other classes with heavy reading materials. And I can just, you know, wander around with a camera. So, I borrowed a camera from my father for that semester and I wandered around taking pictures of people.
But for me, it was terrifying to walk around with a camera and should I ask the people if I can take their picture or should I just take their picture? Do I want to be in their face or not? And after maybe one semester of doing that and coming up with horrible images of people, I realized I might be better suited to landscapes, or doing portraits of buildings. And even though I was majoring in philosophy, I was most interested in my photography classes and I kept taking photography every single semester.
At that point I really realized I wanted to go to graduate school in photography. And there were several places I was considering. But the fact was, my parents were living in Florida, and to get the in-state tuition in Florida was a fraction of the cost of any of those other places. By the time I came to Gainesville to have an interview, I was basically just really nervous about the whole thing. I just wanted them to accept my work and think it was good. Evon: It was just a little stiff.
It was a little controlled. It was just like a straight shot right to the target, with no left and no right, very little room for other interpretations. I don't think she trusted all of her psychological and intellectual capacity at that particular time. We had the Graduate Record Exam and her scores were off the charts. Rarely, we had never had an art student in the whole history of the Art Department had those kind of scores.
In a very short amount of time, you could sense that this was a sincere, articulate, intelligent person that was not here just to do the same thing, that they were open to the expression of ideas. The whole mood of the studio disciplines here at the University of Florida were the most joined and eager, like to participate, to give and take. We would actually send students to other departments for a semester of study in printmaking.
Possibly, depending on what you were doing with your photographs, we were really trying to find the niche that the student most aptly belonged in. I was just trying my best to find my own path, I guess, and find my own voice in this, and thought that I should experiment with the printmaking, the color, some of Jerry's darkroom techniques. But I wasn't as happy with the printmaking as a process.
You can take a printmaking class and do photo etching. So, it was a little scary for me at first, because I'm not so technical, and I had never done anything like printmaking, with the acid and the metal and the, you know, all kinds of monoprints we would make, and things like that. So, these were family snapshots that I started using to make a little photo etchings from. That was actually my father. This is my grandfather, for some reason was on the floor barking like a dog. These were all kind of experimental things that I was trying to do, just to kind of, you know, see what the other possibilities were.
And the idea that these were linked to me more personally was kind of a novel thing to me at that point. So, then I started really playing with things more that were old toys and things from my own past. So, this was some of the work I did just a little bit after that that kind of shows that I was trying to break away from doing really straight photographic work. Some were with sun, out in the yard. Some were in my apartment, with just a few really simple clamp-on lamps.
I didn't have any nice equipment or anything. Most of them had a kind of personal story. This is like a family snapshot that has paint on it and then set other snapshots on top of it. These were all things that had some connection to this story for me, and I wanted to kind of bring them all together but then rephotograph it so you have sort of all these layers, but it's all, like, on one photographic surface there. Everybody was so happy to have something different.
Frankly, they were also tired of seeing my suburban scenes I think that they were like, well, this is great. We love it. This is so different for you. (music playing) Jerry: Her work, certainly when she had her MFA show, was very, very distinctive and very engaging, and a lot of people responded.
Maggie's work began to develop more imagination and fantasy and richness of ideas. I think she had to admit how damn bright she was, and she began to use it. I was thinking that within two years, I could get a masters degree and then get a teaching job somewhere, so it was kind of like anywhere in the country that they will have me, I will go and teach photography.
And then I'll also have time to make my photography, so that would be the support system for making my art would be my income as a teacher. (music playing) By the time I finished, two years later, I actually probably felt more confused and felt like the world of photography is much broader than I had realized, and it's basically part of the whole contemporary art scene. And maybe I'm not going to go teach anywhere; maybe I'll just make images. And I saw the possibilities of being an artist in a much broader sense.
(music playing) I thought, what I'd like to do is go on and work with some other objects, not necessarily all my own family snapshots, but maybe some other things that I could collect or create. So, I found that it was kind of interesting to go to these flea markets around the area, in North Florida--antique stores too, but mostly flea markets. And I would buy all kinds of bits and pieces broken things. So, these were like little plastic horses that somebody's dog had chewed up.
And I took old books and whatever else I found and just started to kind of build things. And this was kind of my way of working for, really, about ten years. And it was totally fabricated imagery. And at the time, like a lot of the work that I was seeing in the magazines and work that was being reviewed in New York, was staged or fabricated photography. So, this definitely seemed like the way to go. It was just like, why take your camera out into the real world when you can fabricate something in the studio that's more meaningful to you? But it was a very frustrating way of working sometimes, and I went through quite a lot of film, 4 x 5 film.
I'd go in the darkroom and load twenty or thirty sheets of film and go out and set this up, and it's late in the day and the shadows are kind of changing rapidly, and so I was constantly reshooting. And I wanted to try to include stuff from my own sort of organic Florida surroundings. So, we have tons of these wonderful little green tree frogs, and the idea that I could have them be included as characters in the images was kind of interesting to me. Or the fish from my fish tank, in what I sort of thought of as a photographer's studio there, like a little diorama set up for them to pose in.
The problem was these things didn't always cooperate. What I thought I was gonna get was the fish higher up and looking right at me with a nice bulging eye and looking really beautiful. What I got was kind of the fish not being terribly happy and waiting to go back in his fish tank. So, I couldn't exactly get him to pose the way that I wanted. I'd have to go back on another day and reshoot, and I just wasted tons and tons of film. So, it became a more and more frustrating way of working, really, when I wanted to use things that were ephemeral.
(music playing) Russell Brown: I joined Adobe as their first art director. I was influenced by Jerry at high school. And my teacher says, "Take a look at this guy's work. He's doing some amazing stuff in the darkroom." The tree's roots growing out of the building was the very first image that I saw. I was just stunned. How was this possible at all? How did he create that? So, I'm going into the darkroom in 1973 and trying to mimic Jerry Uelsmann.
His comfortable space is the darkroom and an analog world. We, at Adobe--I must say, I was involved. I can't believe this. We tried to lure him to the dark side. We took on a project years ago when Photoshop first came out. We took his negatives, his prints, we scanned them in, and we showed him this process. I don't think he ever touched the computer. I think we sort of guided him along. And he sort of nodded and appreciated the fact that we were showing him that there was another way.
Jerry: In the winter of 1996, Adobe called me and asked me if I would create an image for them, using Photoshop, to make a poster. And they sent with this equipment a guy, George Jardine, who was one of their, what they call digital evangelists. He set the whole thing up for us, and then I worked with him, and I had him initially scanning contact sheets to see how images could be built.
While this is all going on, it's like me advising the guy who could do all the technical stuff, try to do this, try to do that, and he could do these different things, Maggie was watching all of this. During the time that this three-day visit happened originally, from the Photoshop guy, George Jardine, who is the evangelist, I sat with him and with Jerry to sort of see what was happening, but I didn't operate the computer. Then when he left, I thought well, okay, so now I'll get out the book and check it all out, and I read all the stuff and figured out the Tool palette wasn't so much to learn because I think it was like version 2 or 2.5, whichever one first had layers in Photoshop.
I immediately loved it and tried to just learn everything I could about it. And the quality I could get with this scanner was great. I was playing with it and having fun with it, and I was trying different objects and different backgrounds and the idea that you could change the sizes of things. Russ: I clearly recall the first phone call I got from Maggie telling me, "Russ, I'm doing some experimenting here. I had some questions.
Excuse me, I've got a goldfish on my scanner flatbed." I get, what? What? Put the goldfish back in the bowl. So, she's experimenting in the early days with flatbed scanners, and she saw the dark side as possibilities. A person in a tintype photograph that I was never able to use before could be lifted out of their background and be used. But I couldn't see still how I could make finished prints.
People were not accepting digital work as much at that time. It wasn't until I started to see a few other artists doing IRIS inkjet prints. It wasn't glossy. It wasn't that slick shiny surface. It was like a whole new world, and I just loved it the minute that I saw that. (music playing) I like sitting at my desk. It's very comfortable.
It's all neat and tidy, and I have everything I need. And I like typing. I can check my email if I want to. I've just got like everything here that I need. In the darkroom, it was not fun for me; I didn't like the chemicals and all that stuff. And you know, you were kind of not able to multitask as much. It was just one thing I was stuck doing in there. When I used to do the collages that I set up in front of the camera, I had to make a decision right then, before I used my 4 x 5 film, about what was going to be in and what was going to be out.
With this now in the computer, I can make changes as I go along. At one point, the girl with the saw had a butterfly, a boat, the watermelon, a pelican, and a beetle. And I decided that I didn't really love all those things, and I had to kind of narrow it down. So, it's like building up and then paring away is kind of my process a lot. One of the things that always amazes me is the detail that I get. Some of the elements are scanned and some of them are just photographed with my little point-and-shoot camera.
When I photographed that watermelon, I didn't love the image that I got of it, so the watermelon actually exists as a whole bunch of different layers of the watermelon. In fact, the original watermelon was kind of lopsided and was a yellow watermelon, not a red one. So, you never know, as you're going along, how something's going to end up, and I like that aspect of working. I don't, you know, I don't start out with an idea and say, I woke up and had a dream of a girl holding a saw and a watermelon and now I will illustrate that.
It never works that way for me. I really prefer this kind of more organic and playful way. I just enjoy the fact of interacting with the image. I like the idea that they have a stage-like presence and partly using the floors that I use. Sometimes using curtains in the background for images kind of gives you the sense that this is a little play that's unfolding. There's a little drama happening here.
And in a way, it almost reminds me of when I was a kid and I would play with the dollhouse with toys. You're bringing in different little characters and moving their furniture around and kind of just seeing what happens, until you reach a point where you're happy with it. (music playing) Evon: Her work is just, in my opinion, it's layered, it's heavy, it's dark.
And I think she has allowed it just to open a box of dreams, and she now feels comfortable to walk through it and to show it without being threatened. And I think it's just provided her a richness beyond words. Ted: Very few people followed directly in Jerry's path. When Maggie came into it and began working digitally, it looked different. And so she was able to make the art without being typecast as one of his followers.
Keith: She's using a twenty-first century technology to deal, primarily, with photography's first generation. She's re-imagined something bigger and richer and more personal and more symbolically resonant from that source image. Jerry: That ability, with Photoshop and the experimentation she had been doing, the combination of those two created the body of work.
Once, I think, she had the sense of that independent spirit, that's been an ongoing thing. (music playing) (birds chirping) Jerry: We're definitely, every day somehow, involved in our art and other life issues of maintaining the house and the dogs and all that stuff.
But we're basically committed to making art. (music playing) Maggie: For the most part, we work really independently. A long time ago, Jerry added onto the house where we live and added a studio, and that was before I lived there. But he added a whole separate building that has his darkroom in it. And I used to share that with him for about ten years. But we just have so much stuff. We're collecting things to use in our work. So, about seven or eight years ago, I guess, we decided that instead of building another little studio space, just buy a small house nearby.
Jerry: Hey, buddy. Are you locked up then? Yes, you are. You've been making art over here? I like the basic image of the girl, but the stuff that you've got, the linear stuff going around the head, doesn't do much for me at this point. It really helps me to get input from other people whose opinions I respect. You know, do you like the girl with the blue dress or the red dress? Or, do you like this background or that background? And sometimes I listen and sometimes I don't.
I need that kind of outside input though, to help me make decisions. Jerry: I can do basic email, but then the computer will always ask me questions I can't understand. That's what I don't like. Titles. So, this is the kind of thing she'll send me. So for this image, we have two titles. This is the semi-final version. Options. Nocturne or Small Boat Waiting. And there may be a second version of the image. No, not there.
And I told her I like Small Boat Waiting. And there's a different image she had been working on, and I love this image. I think this her best new image. It's just so bizarre. It's just, I don't know what about it. It's like, how could someone think of that, and that saw there, amazing. And there was more choices here. The title could be The Lesson, The Gift, The Reminder. And I picked--I like The Lesson.
Image-wise, I always have prints for her to look at. I don't, I can't suddenly send her a scan, so it's usually on her way back or she's doing something. And I say, "I want you to look at these things," and then I'll spread out the versions that I've completed. And then, you begin to realize that there truly is more than one right answer as you evolve these things. I'm going into the studio-- my studio, not Maggie's.
I've been in this place 25 years at least. I don't remember the exact date. These are my larger prints. I make a smaller number of them, but I like to have them in the larger size. This is from 1982, '83, and these are matted and hopefully ready to send off to a show. On some days, it just feels--it's a more interesting day for me to just do this kind of work.
I can have the blues playing loudly on my stereo system and just matting a few prints, with the hope that someday someone else will want them. Here's a floating boat, another floating boat. This is what people forget, that years ago, the landscape jobs out west, they literally had mules carry their equipment, but they had glass plates. There's stories of one mule falling down, coming down a canyon and all the plates broke.
It was a much more challenging kind of thing to do. This is a key room. This is sort of where it all begins. I spend a lot of time out here, you know, looking at contact sheets that represent everything that's on the role of film. And I'm collecting, in essence, pieces of things, things that I respond to in the world. It's just very helpful to have them, and not so much in the structured order.
Like this was done in 1996. And I know that was done, I think, in Ireland. Usually I know. The models that I've used, I usually photograph against a white background because I could introduce that figure standing somewhere. This was photographed in 1986, in May, and I have file numbers so I can find those negatives. Tthe figures jumping, these became my flowing figures, and that was just a sheer chance.
I had a photograph the model against a white background, and I won't be able to find that one. And there were two shots left on the roll, so I said, "Jump," so she jumped, and I got her jumping with flash. That print proof sheet existed for years, and one day it happened to be placed, like this, and then there was another proof sheet let's say like this. And you know, I came out and I looked, now wait a minute. If I print that person horizontal, I can have her floating above that ground there.
So, one of my earliest pictures with the floating figure involved a figure floating over a shore. I could take any two contact sheets and go in the darkroom and make something, but the point is you're still trying to critically come up with something that resonates with you. There are levels of understanding that you can't articulate, that you can't describe in a logical, sensible, reasonable way that have value, that they are powerful, evocative images that stay with you in your mind.
And I mean that's the hope at the end of the process that you get--begin to approach that. But because of the way it works mentally, we can't think it through to that point. It's much more intuitive and learning to trust the fact. I mean, I don't like knowing the fact that I produce a hundred images a year and there's only ten that I end up at the end of the year liking, yet at the same time, I also know that unless I did that hundred, those ten aren't going to be there.
There's a small boat, and this was photographed, this has this like white area of water behind it. I drew that on there because I got another idea for it. So, I could easily put that dark cloud and put it closer above that. This is how I get my initial ideas. I'll show you something else. So, you could take this, put this like this, and then you can actually get some sense of what that would look like, that lone boat.
I could try to make a dark hole that replicates the shape of the boat occurring within the sand. I don't know. That's the key, what I'm saying there. I don't know. Once I print this, sometimes that first thing is enough. I mean, there's just something special about this boat with this dark flow, and it looks believable. It'll look believable in the finished print. And you know, where you have to be concerned is you don't want to talk yourself out of doing this because it looks familiar.
It's just, you have to accept the fact that three days later, after you've spent time making these things, you might reject it because it somehow fell below what you had hoped would happen. But if I don't do it, I'll keep having it there bothering me. Because I do think this could go somewhere. I don't know where it would go, but that would be the starting point. There is--it's very interactive. Just as Maggie's, you know, interacts with what she seeing and what she can do with it and knowing the options. Maggie: I get inspired by objects the most: antique photographs, odds and ends at a flea market.
All the time in the back of my brain I'm thinking about what I might do with this or that that I find and coming up with some ideas for the next things I might work on. I thought I'd stop in and see if you had different new photographs or anything down here, or other stuff. (music playing) Maggie: St. George right here. Okay. Male speaker: It's over here.
Maggie: Are these palms? Oh, look at that. Hm. Male speaker: I don't know when we're going to see this palm tree. Maggie: Kind of neat little boat. I know that I'm not going to be inspired to do something new, sometimes, unless I have new materials to work with. And the ones I like to collect usually are daguerrotypes or ambrotypes, and the ambro- types are the ones that are on glass like this. But I just sort of gravitate toward this particular time period and the clothing and stuff; it has a kinda dreamlike quality to me.
Most of the time they kind of morph, in my mind, into the people that I end up making them be in my images. I hardly ever know their names, and I hardly ever know the exact dates of them. So, they're really separated from their own past, and then I just sort of take them on as characters that I work with. I don't know what I'm going to use them for at the time, but I can scan all these different things in and then after the fact, play with them. Usually, I'll scan between five and ten different things and play around with them.
I have this whole drawer full of stuff here that's like some stuff I could scan, and a lot of this I have scanned at least once or twice before. But this is kind of like my handy drawer of possibilities, if I need something. And it's not that it's all that organized, really. But it's more organized, I think, than Jerry's contact sheets are. So, I kind of know where things are. I recently decided, just opening this up, that this little saw was interesting-looking. It had been part of a mish-mash of things over here that were all really small, and I was looking around one day through it, and I came upon it again and so that's how I happened to think, oh, you know, that has a pretty interesting quality.
And for a miniature thing, it's pretty detailed. So, you know, I just put it right on the scanner and tried it and right away loved the way it looked. So, I didn't know at the time I was going to definitely use it. In fact, I was just kind of scanning random objects that day. I know she's got like tons of damage on her and stuff, but I can fix that. And she has really relativity sharp eyes, and here you can even see her fingernails are just so perfect. There's no blur at all.
She must have been able to hold very still with her hand like that. And a little bracelet and oh, she's great. I'll definitely be able to do something with her. But it's going to be a long process to try to fix her up. And that's okay. If I have a day where I don't really know what else I want to work on, I might just sit there for the whole day and totally fix her up. And then during the process of doing that, usually I'll think about some idea for her.
Once I'm sitting at my desk working, I tend to come up with things. You know, when I'm sitting there, as I'm doing something very routine, like retouching an image, I remember something from a dream or something I've seen elsewhere. Then that kind of filters into the work in some way. But if I'm not sitting there at my desk, nothing can happen. And for Jerry he has to be in the darkroom, working. Otherwise, nothing can happen. (music playing) Jerry: At this point I thought this was a finished print.
But during the night, it occurred to me, that how would it work if instead of the chair occurring in the clouds here, that it came down and emerged out of the figure? So, in order to do that, I have to take a piece of paper and make a little drawing of where that figure falls, and then remove the chair part, which was this part and the other enlarger, down to now it's going to touch the head. It's a subtle difference, but I do think, from a psychological point of view, it does alter the image.
It's a huge change from having him see something in the distance as opposed to having this grow out of his head. I want to try another version. I'll do it where I'll make the figure dark. This truly didn't occur to me till last night, that--I don't know why I didn't think of having this. And I don't know if it's going to work, but right now, it looks pretty interesting.
I used to always listen to music. I love the blues. And now these things get so complex that I have to remember what I have to do at each enlarger, and so I don't get to play music until I'm doing the final wash and other stuff. Now before, this had just one exposure like that, but I'm going to give it several that will make the figure almost black. I can also make that chair totally black and the figure totally black. One more there.
It's interesting, of the few places where they still teach darkroom photography, I've talked to high school teachers and said, yeah, we have all these kids that are working with computers and suddenly, this magic in the darkroom, they get--they just love it. So that still has that kind of quality, but it's not a competitive sport. I don't like it when people think, oh, they tell me oh, the darkroom is much better. Don't you think it's better? It's not better; it's different. It's my way because I've been doing it a long time, but if I were younger, I definitely would be working with a computer.
Now, what I'd like to try is that black chair and keep the guy transparent. But somehow, I don't know why I'd rejected the totally black chair, but to me, at this point, I like that. I think, you know, this is for sale. No, who cares. That's the last thing I think about. I don't know.
It probably works better with the black figure, because that then becomes a continuous part of the chair. It looks a little hokey though, in the way he's standing there without a shadow. I'm going to try one where I simply have the black at the top and then the figure fades off toward the bottom. I could burn in that rock, just make it a little darker. This area here gets a little bit too much maybe, but there are several ways I can do this.
This now is just printing the figure the way it is, but if I block up here with a card--and this is something you just learn over the years of having done this-- I can make those feet fade off. We're going to try this. Let's see what happens here. This one better be perfect. We interrupt the history of photography for a special announcement.
And that rock does look a little darker than it is here, coming out of it. I could burn in the sides a little more. I like where the eye holds the eye in by having like the bottom darker. I didn't think to do the sides. I'm going to have to do one more. Just one more, that's what they always say when they take pictures. We could use this for an Excedrin headache commercial.
This is just a matter of darkening the edges there, just to hold the eye toward the center. And then we're going to make an overkill here a little bit for the bottom. All right. Now, our clouds, which, this is the one I don't have to do anything, other than put it in the paper and meditate on, why do I do this? What does it mean? Now, this is looking good.
You see, we had to try those others to get to this. It's not a magic bullet. Whether it's an authentically worthwhile image, time will determine that, I suppose. But this is the kind of thing you can only think of while you're doing it. That's why, you know, I always, when I taught graduates, I mean, they'd be talking about things they were going to do, and I'd say, excuse me, you've got to do it. You gotta physically get in there and try these things because that's where the really creative process begins.
The subtle differences are, you see the lightness to the edge there and the darkness there. This is just holding the eye in so that visually, this is where you begin to address that. And I darkened the whole rock area around him. I like that. It's the best of the day. (music playing) On one hand, you do have feedback from supportive friends that are close by, but you need this quiet time, this time where you're by yourself.
You're doing this. You got to have conditions conducive for something to happen. So, until I went in the darkroom and literally started making marks on that paper, the art wasn't going to happen without that process. Maggie: You have to make bad images to make good images. You know, in a way, you have to work through making ones that you don't love. (music playing) This is something I've been working on.
I scanned in all these beetles that I really love from old books. They're old, like, 1740s illustrations of beetles. And what I've been trying to do with them is work out a way that they could be a frame for somebody. And I've tried a variety of different people behind them and different things behind them. And I'm kinda liking a landscapey background behind them. And I had these words that were in another image that I thought I'd try here, that it kind of reminds me of like a long time ago when I used to use little phrases in my photographic images.
And so this is like, now what? It did have a question mark, but I didn't like the question mark. But I've got the words in there, and I'm thinking, I like that. I like the interaction of the beetles with the words. And I like this kind of suggested landscape background there, with just a hint of a cloud and a little bit of some trees. The problem now is, by mistake, one day when I was turning on and off these layers, I turned off the beetle layer. And once the beetles are off, I actually like the image better.
So, that means this is another beetle failure, like the beetles are going to have to get out of there and go into some other image. So, I scanned in a ton of little twigs and I also used a ladder, which I could cut and paste and make the text. Once I got this text in, I thought well, I kind of like it, but it's going to need more branches or vines or something coming out of it. I don't want to make it look like it's growing there, but I want to make it look like stuff people just freshly found and cut to make this text.
So, then I'm looking around outside the yard and thinking, what do I have that has a good sort of a viney look? And that's why I scanned in some ferns and a few little root pieces, thinking I could cut those and morph them and make them into just little things that will come out of the text. And you know, I don't know what's going to happen with this, but I mean, this I had just put in here and I'm not sure. But I'm gong to take this one little fern and make it onto own separate layer.
I want it to look like they're growing on the logs. I don't know. Hm. I don't know if I'm going to like this. I also scanned in this little root. It reminds me of like a nice old tree branch. So, I think it could work, if I take little bits off of it and put them here and there.
But now that I look at it, the root is way better than the fern pieces. This is more what I wanted, just to make little, tiny bits. And this is something that only someone looking really, really closely at this image will ever really see. Or, you know, if it's blown up to a really large size print, they would see it. But I kind of like the idea that I'm just going to have these little, tiny things there. Yes, this is what I wanted. Little, tiny things. And then after that, fixing up the landscape a little bit more.
Oh, there, I just changed that roots blend mode to Multiply and it looked a lot better. Oh, I like that, now that it lines up and it's just got little bits coming up. That is not bad. If I show this to Jerry, I don't know if he'll like it, but I like it. Jerry: Okay. Ooh, that's not bad. I think that. Maggie: I don't want the trees so close to the mountains. I mean I'm not saying, well, that's not bad either, look at that, Jerry.
The mountains go way up. Jerry: Your eye, you know, this area has to be. Maggie: There's a sheen area over there that is not fully worked out. Sometimes it's better to look at it like this. Jerry: Yeah, that's better if you can add that to that other version of the overall tone. Maggie: So, if I just put a mask on that. That was light coming in from the museum window under that painting is what it was. Jerry: As Maggie's skill has improved, I learned that technology that she's doing, although I'm jealous that I can't do it.
So I can tell her, put that thing around there with the-- Maggie: Box, put the box. Jerry: Then put that box around there so you can stretch it out down here. And I can say things based on what I know she's capable of doing, but I don't know what, you know, it involves her remembering 4,000 layers or all that kind of stuff. But initially, you could just use the photo rooms and burn that in or darken this, but there's so many more choices here. I'm aware of things she can do to change perspective, how she can isolate things, and darken things, sharpen things, there's a concept.
I can't sharpen things beyond what they are on the negative. So, I have, I don't have the correct terminology, but I've watched her do this enough and become insanely jealous. Maggie: You're good at knowing what can be done. You just don't necessarily know the steps to get there. And so, that's one thing that's kind of frustrating. Sometimes when I'm trying to fix something, because you're on to--you're telling me do A, B, C . And I'm like, well, I want to get A perfect before I go on, and it takes time. Jerry: It is not uncommon for us to have, where she'll want me to come look at something.
I make suggestions, and she constantly says, I can't do that. If I do it one more time it's going to degenerate, or whatever. She goes on and on about this. And then. Maggie: I can't do it, can't do it, can't do it. Jerry: Yeah, I can't do it. And then I leave, thinking, you know, hey, I'm trying to help and then I find out that Jerry: she eventually does. Maggie: A day later I do it. Maggie: Here's what that little baby doll image was, was this. Jerry: Oh, God. Maggie: You don't like him? Jerry: Well, I like him, but he does, in the silhouette, he reads as a tail. Maggie: That's good, right? Jerry: No. Do you want him to have a tail? All right, whatever.
Maggie: I mean it's more interesting than your magazine people. Jerry: Now, wait a minute. It's not a competitive sport. Jerry: This image really sucks. Maggie: Yeah. Jerry: I tell you, it's getting. Oh my god. Maggie: It's better than your half-naked yoga man. Jerry: Hey, that, he's not a silhouette. It's meditative. Maggie: There he is, right. Jerry: Because when he's back, it's like he's pointing to the sign almost. Maggie: Mhmm. And you kind of can't tell if that's a tail or if he has a backpack or what, but I sort Maggie: of like that about him. Jerry: All right.
Maggie: Go back to your own little studio. Jerry: All right, yeah. Jerry: You won't get her in the darkroom. She used to say it smelled bad. Maggie: It smells like mildew in there. Jerry: Well, that's part of the process. (music playing) Maggie: When we had a show in Korea back in 2007, it was really the first time that anybody had asked us to show the works side by side. Jerry: Someone had thoughtfully put together, in the same journal, a picture by Maggie and a picture by me, where we had similar elements.
(music playing) Our work is so visually different. Mine definitely are much more surreal and painterly and his are black-and-white classic-looking photographs, so it was surprising to us how many there were that linked. She might need a particular kind of background, and then I remember well, when we were in Ireland, I photographed that little castle and I--you're welcome to use that. But it's not a conscious thing; it's maybe like a contagious thing.
He's been borrowing my little dollhouse furniture and my little crumpled-up pieces of paper, small boats. Jerry has a number of photographs of real boats and I've used a couple of them. And birds, shells, and other small objects. I scan them, but Jerry photographs them on a light table. Keith: Both have been about making images that operate poetically and subjectively, that invite viewer participation.
The household is not just husband and wife living together and having meals together, but it's living the ideas together. Evon: There's just such total support for each other as artists. He just totally supports her. She totally supports him. It's like they think about each other more than they do themselves. (music playing) Maggie: There are times when one or the other of us is really doing well and feeling positive about an image and the other one is struggling to get back to work.
Jerry: For whatever reason, at certain times, the challenge feels greater than at other times, in terms of taking that blank sheet of paper, blank canvas, and having something of substance occur on it. All right, how about that? We just know that's the way it is. It's very rare that we both have had a really good image-making day and feel really happy at the end of the day.
A few times a year, we like to go away someplace where we can really just be out in nature. Just, you know, 45 minutes or an hour from our house, that we can go someplace and have a day and be separated from everything is really good. (indecipherable speech) Female speaker: You're first because it's first in line. Is that okay? Jerry: Yeah, because the oldest. All right. I don't know if I'll be taking any pictures, but it's just an experience out of our normal context, out of our normal range of daily activities, so it's refreshing.
(water splashing) Civilization is being left behind. (music playing) This brings you back to square one. (music playing) Maggie: Sometimes we come back with images that we can use, background landscapes that might be useful.
But more importantly, we just come back refreshed and ready to sit back at the computer, for him to go back in the darkroom. (music playing) Jerry: I'm constantly fascinated with trees, and Maggie and I both have a thing about that. You're not making major aesthetic decisions; you're just trying to learn to authentically respond to the world around you, because if you think too much, you'll talk yourself out of it.
Maggie: I just like that one fern, kind of. (music playing) First I came in here cuz I just wanted to see the lilies, but then I saw all these caterpillars. I don't know if I'll use them for anything, but they were nice, graphic, black- and white-striped caterpillars. (music playing) Jerry: Maggie, here's a gator. I'm not kidding. Here's a gator.
(music playing) He's just come out of water, so he's all dark. (music playing) The experiences you have feed into your art. What keeps your work cohesive is the extent to which you are self-reflective and authentic. (music playing) Evon: We have really lived through, experienced, and watched the end of what at one time was a greater phenomenon than the computer: the fixed image on a piece of paper.
At this moment, Jerry works in an antique photographic process. Phillip: I don't think Jerry's work has ever been more relevant or more resonant than it is today. Because of the digital technologies that are available, it may be that younger artists who look at Jerry's work think, okay, yeah, I could do that, in a way that artists in the '60s and '70s couldn't. But having said that, I think the material looks really fresh to young eyes, and there's a whole generation, or more, of artists who really haven't studied this work before.
And it's not just technical; it is artistic. It is emotional. It is expressive. And it's Jerry's approach to this kind of subject matter, I think, more than his technical sophistication, that really resonates with people today. (music playing) Keith Davis: Jerry began when there was no economic incentive to make art photographs, and Maggie began when there was very little economic incentive to be making computer art. In both cases, what we see stems from something deeply felt and deeply personal.
And that continues. Jerry: I knew that somehow this medium had possibilities that certainly were beyond this portrait studio in Detroit that I initially envisioned. I couldn't define them from any other occupational point of view. All I knew was that this is incredibly interesting to me. And I don't know what all the clues that caused that watching that first print in the developer, but there was a point in which it was--I believed it was engaging for me and it would sustain that kind of feeling for a long time.
(music playing) Maggie Taylor: I'm very open to the idea that we're all changeable and that I can't say a few years from now if I'll be doing the exact same sort of thing that I'm doing now. I'm really happy with the fact that the computer came into my life at the time that it did, and allowed me to change and my work to grow in this way. Jerry: Edgar Weston said he defined art as the outer expression of inner growth. The quote was basically, when I was young, in my early 40s, I defined art as outer expression of inner growth.
He said, "I can't define art any better today, but my work has changed. Art is not something to be learned apart from books and rules. It is a living thing that depends on full participation. As we grow in life, so we grow in art, each of us in his unique way." (music playing) Keith: Jerry represents the beginning of time, with the enlarger.
Maggie is representing modern age, and so we have this fusion between the two that influence the people here at The Annenberg. Male speaker: Why are we all here? We're here because of Jerry Uelsmann. I believe that Photoshop may have existed, if I didn't see Jerry's work, would I have gone onto Adobe, would I have helped them make Photoshop? Would I be here? Would any of you be here? I don't think so. (music playing) Phillip: He has given a whole new generation of photographers the inspiration to engage with experimental photography.
What that means in the future, what kinds of photography in coming decades, remains to be seen. (music playing) Ted: I sometimes think of the world of artists as sort of this large balloon that's filled with artwork, and each artist is busy pushing at some edge or another of that balloon and slowly enlarging that universe and making it a little richer for us.
(music playing) Jerry and Maggie have expanded that perimeter, and even with all of the work they have done, that universe is still largely empty and waiting to be filled with work from other artists. They've opened a whole new territory for us, and now the tools increasingly exist that any of us can go in.
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