Photographs by Jerry Uelsmann. Text by Peter Bunnell.
Bulfinch, New York, 2005. 112 pp., Numerous illustrations throughout, 11½x12".
One of the nice surprises
of my life in photography
was the discovery that
Jerry Uelsmann is a very
funny man. Hearing him
crack up an audience at a
national conference of
photography teachers and
professionals gave me a
renewed appreciation for the playful imagination that
runs through his once iconoclastic, now, in an era of
daily PhotoShop miracles (which he gracefully dismisses
in a copyright page disclaimer), remarkably settled
and iconic images. This survey of Uelsmann's work, dating
from the early 1960s to 2004, is not hilarious. But it
is revealing; the artist's voice appears on facing pages
throughout the long, finely printed plate section, concluding
with this—”Ultimately, my hope is to amaze
myself”—which is as fine a statement as any artist could
make about discovery and pleasure and takes
Diaghilev's charge to Cocteau—”Amaze me.”—to a more
refined, responsible, yet joyous level. Uelsmann is not a
sober symbolist, but a darkroom alchemist with the
skills of a master printer and the free-form, intuitive
image construction of a surrealist film maker. To have his
deft aphorisms accompanying your meander through
this retrospective volume is a distinct pleasure, and a
window into a seemingly bottomless reservoir of creativity;
the hilarity, however, will have to wait for the
“Uelsmann Live” DVD. GEORGE SLADE
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