Photography Articles

Reprinted from: Honar Nameh, University of Art, Tehran, No. 20, 2003

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Origins of Photomontage & the Work of Jerry Uelsmann

Homa Edalat

Iran, 2003

Seeing the world's objects through an unfamiliar window, called inner vision, and connecting transformed pictures, with the realm of imagination that is the result of a mystical and occult intuition, reveals an unreal and ideal world that may have tempted artists through the ages.

Even though the modern world has, though the development of technology on the one hand, and accumulation of capital on the other, pushed society toward ever increasing mechanization, these great social transformations took a different turn in the world of art.

We find here a reaction to a world that is fast emptying of spiritual values. Even though the tendency toward subjectivity and unfamiliar elements may be construed as providing a means of escaping external psychological pressures, it nevertheless opened a new window to artists, especially those who consciously utilized the achievements of the industrial world.

What we call "Photomontage" today may be one of the most straightforward means of expressing the realm of subjectivity and imagination. This trend, which began with the birth of photography, developed further under the influence of surrealism, opening the way for indirect expression, but with objective or non-objective elements.

Images from the world of imagination that at times could not find objective equivalents for manifestation were represented in the most abstract forms, and at times through strange and unexpected combinations and permutations of some of the most objective elements.

In contemporary photography, it can be said that Jerry Uelsmann has used the rich heritage of the surrealism and photomontage to step boldly in the realm of imagination with more precision and technically. His boldness, dynamic subjectivity and fluid thought, which have masterfully and intelligently utilized his medium, have resulted in unprecedented or rare pictures.

Since I am particularly interested in painting or photography image to linger or in my memory, to continue its existence, works such as Uelsmann's can rob me of my intelligence and spirit, particularly those works that combine the human figure with natural elements, or the ones that transform the sky and earth into a new appearance.

In most of his works, the pulse of life beats in each element of the photograph. They transport me in a beguiling voyage beyond the familiar and the mundane, leaving all of my subjective equations and prejudices in shambles. Is it not the duty of the artist to rouse against habit and custom?