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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) Keith Davis: Jerry represents the beginning of time, with the enlarger. Maggie is representing the modern age. Both have been about making images that operate poetically and subjectively, that invite viewer participation. Ted Orland: Jerry's rise into the art world is one of those unique stories. Keith: To have a one-person show at The Modern in those days, it was the peak.
Jerry Uelsmann: The comment that just always threw me was they say, "Well, this is interesting, but this is not photography." And I'm like, "Excuse me. I'm in the darkroom for hours. I buy everything at the camera store. What am I supposed to call this?" Phillip Prodger: You could say that Jerry was ahead of his time, that he anticipated Photoshop before Photoshop came on the scene. Jerry: I tried to imply that the darkroom was essentially a visual research lab, because I've had decisive moments when suddenly, whoa, that tree will blend in that building.
Keith: 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. Maggie Taylor: I was just trying my best to find my own path and find my own voice in this. I just wanted them to accept my work and think it was good. Russell Brown: I clearly recall the first phone call I got from Maggie. "I've got a goldfish on my scanner flatbed." "I get what? What? Put the goldfish back in the bowl." So, she's experimenting and she saw these possibilities.
Maggie: I don't start out with an idea and say, you know, 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. Keith: She's using a twenty-first century technology to deal, primarily, with photography's first generation. Evon Streetman: There's just such total support for each other as artists. Keith: The household is not just husband and wife living together and having meals together, but it's living the ideas together.
Russ: I think they're both the most amazing modern-day surreal storytellers that I know. (music playing)
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