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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) Maggie Taylor: 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 Uelsmann: 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 Davis: 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 Streetman: 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.
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)
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