Photomontage pioneer Jerry Uelsmann dies in Florida at 87

MIAMI (AP) — Surrealist photographer and photomontage pioneer Jerry Uelsmann has died in Florida. He was 87.

Uelsmann died Monday in Gainesville, where he was a professor emeritus at the University of Florida, according to a statement from the College of the Arts.

Decades before the invention of computer programs like Photoshop, Uelsmann began assembling photographs from multiple negatives and extensive darkroom work to create surreal landscapes and other images.

“The work is iconic, and so was Jerry,” School of Art + Art History Acting Director Elizabeth Ross said in the statement. “He taught at UF for 38 years, helping to establish the creative photography program, one of the first fine art photography programs in the U.S. He transformed photography. He transformed the school, and he transformed us.”

Uelsmann became influential in the 1960s by compositing images using multiple enlargers, which are specialized transparency projectors used to produce photographic prints from negatives. Many of the darkroom techniques developed by Uelsmann would later make their way into photomanipulation software, though Uelsman never made the switch to digital tools.

“I am sympathetic to the current digital revolution and excited by the visual options created by the computer,” Uelsmann wrote in his 2005 book, “Other Realities.” “However, I feel my creative process remains intrinsically linked to the alchemy of the darkroom.”

Uelsmann was born in Detroit in 1934. He received his bachelor’s degree at the Rochester Institute of Technology in 1957, followed by two master’s degrees at Indiana University in 1960. The school awarded him an honorary doctorate in 2012.

Uelsmann began teaching photography at the University of Florida in 1960 and became a graduate research professor of art at the university in 1974. He eventually retired but continued to live and work on his art in Gainesville.

Uelsmann received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1967 and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in 1972. He was a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain, a founding member of The Society of Photographic Education, and a former trustee of the Friends of Photography. His work has been exhibited in more than 100 individual shows, and his photographs are in the permanent collections of many major museums.

Uelsmann’s photographs can be seen in the opening credits of the 1995 version of “ The Outer Limits,” as well as on the covers of Dream Theater’s 2003 album “ Train of Thought ” and Bon Jovi’s 2016 album “ This House Is Not for Sale.”

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