spepdjonovic's blog

In Focus: Jerry Uelsmann

Decades before the advent of Photoshop, Jerry Uelsmann was already creating an impressive and groundbreaking collection of photographic work. His darkroom-developed images combining multiple negatives would ultimately lead to a revolution of mid-20th century photography and a career that spans five decades. His black and white images are part of the Annenberg Space for Photography’s current exhibition, Digital Darkroom. We are thrilled to have Uelsmann as one of our featured artists and excited to learn what the “forefather” of manipulated photography may be up to next.

Born in Detroit in 1934, Uelsmann developed an interest in photography as a teenager.  After receiving his MFA from Indiana University, he began teaching photography at the University of Florida in 1960. It was during this decade that other photographers would evaluate his work of combining unrelated negatives into imaginary and fantastical scenes as not being true photography. Uelsmann says “I would show my work to other photographers, they’d always say, ‘Well, this is interesting, but this is not photography.’ I’d buy the same cameras, spend hours in the darkroom, but somehow they were locked in to the sort of documentary, camera-conceived imagery tradition, which still dominates photography.”

A major break for Uelsmann occurred in 1967, when his images were exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.  His collection of work, that just a few years earlier had been criticized, was now viewed by a dedicated faction as avant-garde and boundary breaking. “It was like being blessed by the Pope,” he later joked about the experience. Uelsmann would continue to defy and challenge tradition over the following decades leading to a retrospective of his work with the publication of “The Mind’s Eye” encompassing fifty years of his photography.

Despite the readily accessible digital photography programs such as Photoshop, Uelsmann has no interest in changing his work routine, even now at 77 years old. When recently asked why he continues to work in the darkroom, rather than transition to digital he said, “I fell in love with the alchemy of the photographic process and to this day, watching that print come up in the developer is magic for me. I still find it a wonderful, challenging experience.”

Learn more about master craftsman Jerry Uelsmann with a visit to the Annenberg Space for Photography. You can catch his surreal images along with the work of our additional sixteen featured artists in Digital Darkroom now through May 28th.

Chris Levine's Vision Comes To Life

By Chris Levine

In 2004, I was commissioned by the Island of Jersey to create a modern portrait of the Queen of England to commemorate the island's 800 years of allegiance to the crown. When word came back from the palace that Her Majesty 'was tickled by the idea of being made into a hologram' things got serious and a date was put in the diary for the shoot. When I initially got the call for the commission, I thought it was someone playing games. It seemed so far-fetched and hard to believe that, until an official date was set,  I told myself that shouldn't get too attached to the idea because I imagined it would all fall through. It was of course a great privilege and honour to be selected and it was a commission I put my heart and soul into. I couldn't have imagined the success of the work today.

As the project gained momentum I went through a series of reality checks. I am not a holographer though my vision for the piece was holographic. I chose as my collaborators the creative holographers Rob Munday and Jeffrey Robb who I'd worked with on many occasions and had made some incredible holograms together, and the US master holographer Dr John Perry who produced the original hologram as shown at Buckingham Palace and the Jersey Museum in 2004 as unveiled by Prince Charles. These were in my opinion the world's leading holographers and my ideal team. Luckily they all accepted the invitation to get involved. My assistant Nina Duncan was selected for me by the office of my friend the fashion photographer Mario Testino and I had the confidence of a highly capable team behind me. In developing the creative direction for the work, the inspiration came to me through my practice of meditation. [www.dhamma.org] and both images "Equanimity" and "Lightness of Being" relate fundamentally to meditative practice. I wanted to develop a piece of work that would be timeless and not bound by any iconography or stylistic language and resisted the use of any props or suggestive devices in the image. The portrayal of Her Majesty was in itself to communicate the basis of the relationship with the monarch and the Island and is intended to convey a sense of power and dignity in perfect harmony, equanimous to all. I got to choose Her Majesty's attire with her dresser Angela Kelly including the beautiful diadem she wore for the shoot. It was a surreal moment when Her Majesty arrived on the date, on time, wearing the clothes I had selected for her. I was very happy with the results of the first sitting though we had some frustrating technical issues on the day.

Within minutes of the first sitting being complete, one of Her Majesty's aides came to me and said that the Queen had enjoyed the sitting and if I'd like another to please write. Of course I was overjoyed to have another sitting and in the benefit of hindsight with one sitting under my belt, I decided on some fundamental changes to my camera angles and lighting and the work published is all from the second sitting. Perhaps one day I will show work from the first sitting which is in fact quite different. I also captured images of Her Majesty using a laser scanner 3D data and have yet to explore that material. "Equanimity" was the working title as used in the development stages of the project and I proposed it to Her Majesty and we agreed it as the formal title at Windsor Castle 2004. During the same meeting, the final choice of image for production as a hologram was made. The sense of stillness and calm was in part captured by through timing the exposures with the breathing cycle of Her Majesty as she sat for the lengthy exposures. The work has had extensive coverage around the world and I created a body of work out of the material from the sittings.

To commemorate the Diamond Jubilee this year, I worked again with holographer Rob Munday to use the original image sequence to create a holographic postage stamp for the Island of Jersey. It is to be mass produced using an advanced holographic dye process whereby a relief pattern of the holographic data is pressed into metallised foil. When light hits the surface of the foil, it is diffracted into the form of the image, a perfect scale reproduction of the original hologram. The stamp will be released by Jersey Post in June 2012. The image "Equanimity" will also appear on the forthcoming 100 pound bank note to be released this year. Both "Lightness of Being" and "Equanimity" will be featured in the forthcoming Queen Art and Image show at the National Portrait Gallery in London in May 2012, the first and final pieces in the show that celebrates the imagery that has been created of the most portrayed woman in history. Sometimes I have to pinch myself.

Chris Levine burst onto the scene in 2004 when he was hired to take the first 3D photographs of Queen Elizabeth II. He calls what he does “light-based work,” utilizing lasers, lenticular images and other cutting-edge techniques. See his work in "Digital Darkroom" which runs from December 17, 2011 - May 28, 2012.

Above two photos © Nina Duncan

Digital Darkroom Hands-On Workshop

The Annenberg Space for Photography recently hosted students from local colleges and art schools enrolled in photography classes for a "Digital Darkroom" special, hands-on workshop with Bonny Pierce Lhotka and Russell Brown.

Bonny taught the attendees how to print the photos on treated aluminum plates to create a vintage tintype look.

While Russell gave an introduction to using mobile software apps with lots of opportunity for creative expression and, as you can see, included various props, costumes and various backgrounds.

Bonny taught the "cooking" of aluminum plates to create antique surfaces that look decades old.

After distressing, washing and cooking the plates, participants will compose and alter both the plate and the image that has been printed on a transfer film. Bonny will show how to easily transfer your print to the aged plate resulting in a new vintage tintype look. Check out the great results!

Coming back to Russell's portion, shared tips and techniques for enhancing the photos taken by the students and also explained how to achieve a classic look and feel as well as how to prepare the final image for printing.

It was a unique learning experience for everyone involved. Looks like no only did everyone have fun but they produced some impressive work!

Richard Ehrlich Steps Up to the IRIS Nights Podium

Photographer Richard Ehrlich opened up his IRIS Nights lecture last night by saying that he loved quotes so much that he would incorporate many of them into his presentation. His first quote of the night was a light-hearted one by photographer Elliott Erwitt: "It's about time we started to take photography seriously and treat it as a hobby."

Richard stressed that he wanted his lecture to provide him an opportunity to be an advocate for photo manipulation, or rather, photo optimization as he prefers to call it. Tinkering with photos, he said, has been a part of photography since the medium's inception in the 19th Century.

He pointed out that the cannonballs in this photo taken during the Crimean War had been added to the original photo over 150 years ago. A convincing image even by today's standards.

Another favorite quote by Richard is credited to Richard Avedon: "A portrait is not a likeness. The moment an emotion or fact is transformed into a photograph it is no longer a fact but an opinion. There is no such thing as inaccuracy in a photograph. All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth."

Richard talked in depth about the "decisive moment," the point in time that a photographer finds the right image. Learn more about his thoughts on this when his lecture is posted on our website very soon.

He also spoke about recent technological advances with digital cameras, detailing the impressiveness of Femto photography and the amazing Lytro and Red cameras.

One of our favorite quotes of the night was said by none other than the man of the hour himself. Said Richard, "There's nothing like the ability to realize your dream and the imagination than the digital." We couldn't agree more.

Thanks for such a great lecture, Richard! Check back soon to view his lecture online.

You can learn more about Richard on his official website.

All images by Unique for the Space

Coming This Summer: 'Who Shot Rock & Roll?'

We're very excited about our next exhibit, Who Shot Rock & Roll: A Photographic History, 1955 to the Present! The show, which features 166 prints by over 100 photographers, was originally shown and created by the Brooklyn Museum. The summer exhibit will include an original documentary Annenberg Space for Photography film (as we always do) with interviews and behind-the-scenes footage of photographers Ed Colver, Henry Diltz, Jill Furmanovsky, Lynn Goldsmith, Bob Gruen, Norman Seeff, Mark Seliger and Guy Webster. There'll also be appearances by rock stars Alice Cooper and Henry Rollins. Click here for more information. Mark June 23 down on your calendar!

'BEAUTY CULTURE' To Be Part of Tribeca Film Festival

We're very excited to announce that the original 30-minute film by the Annenberg Space for Photography which ran during the BEAUTY CULTURE exhibition will be part of the Tribeca Film Festival next month! The 30-minute short film is part of the festival's documentary program named Triptych which focuses on art, music and physical beauty.

The documentary, directed by Lauren Greenfield, was shown last year in the venue's sweeping, unprecedented photographic exploration of how feminine beauty is defined, challenged and revered in modern society. The documentary presents interviews with selected photographers and subjects included in the exhibition.

Watch a trailer for BEAUTY CULTURE here.

Maggie Taylor and Her Digital Darkroom Film Experience

By Maggie Taylor

A little note about the Digital Darkroom film at the Annenberg Space for Photography:

When Jerry Uelsmann and I were in Los Angeles in December for the opening of the exhibition “Digital Darkroom” we were amazed by the wonderful documentary film that was produced for the show.  It was fascinating to see all the other participants in their own environments making their images.  (Of course:  we also really loved meeting all of these special artists in person!)  This is the first time that either of us has been included in an exhibition that was accompanied by a film about the artists.

It is hard to believe that it has already been six months since the production team working on the film visited us at our studios and darkroom in Gainesville, Florida.  Jerry and I spent several days with director Steve Kochones and the folks from Arclight Productions, showing them how we work and talking about our images.  I don’t think they fully realized in advance just how hot and humid it can be in Florida in August.....but they managed to make the best of it. They even shot several outdoor scenes in what must have been 95 degrees and 90 percent humidity!  They also were able to film Jerry creating one of his images in the darkroom using only his normal safelights.  In that past, he had to have additional lights, which either fogged the paper or necessitated a bit of staging and did not capture the "real" printing process.  So he was very excited that they were able to figure out a way to work in near darkness with him.  

The combination of the film and the print installation at the Annenberg Space is really great to see--not to mention the second exceptional film on the 3D artists in the show.  We were really honored to be included and look forward to seeing future shows in the Space!

Maggie Taylor became a towering figure in photography in the 1990s when she learned Photoshop and began creating her unmistakable artistic fingerprint. Utilizing scanned images, tintypes of 19th-century subjects and pure imagination, she creates a world that is simultaneously of the past and of the future, and a photographic grammar that is both provocative and embracing. See her work in "Digital Darkroom" which runs from December 17, 2011 - May 28, 2012.

Ted Grudowski: "Go Into a World that Doesn't Exist Anywhere Else"

By now many of you have seen Ted Grudowski's incredible 3D photography in "Digital Darkroom." His exhibited work includes images that feature Bruce Springstreen and U2's The Edge. Watch this short video (it's less than 2 minutes) and learn more about how Grudowski goes about creating his photographs. Also, don't forget that you can look through all of the 3D images in the print show here.

Pages

Copyright © 2014. The Annenberg Space for Photography. All rights reserved.
Privacy & Accessibility Statement
Sitemap