In the late 1990s, representatives from Adobe approached Jerry Uelsmann, master of darkroom manipulation, to ask if he would be interested in working with their new program, Photoshop. With help from someone who knew the program, Uelsmann produced an image for the company, but he wasn’t swayed by the new technology, and promptly went back to working the way he always had, combining fragments from different negatives into a single images using multiple enlargers, dodging and burning his way to the surreal, poetic compositions he’s made since the 1950s.
But Maggie Taylor, Uelsmann’s wife, was intrigued by what she saw Photoshop do, and began using it to build images that layer scans of objects and nineteenth century photographs, combining and manipulating them into compositions that are more whimsical than her husband’s, but with a similar dreamlike quality. “Other Realities/Divergent Paths: Montages by Jerry Uelsmann and Maggie Taylor,” on view at The Eleanor D. Wilson Museum at Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia until April 24, shows their work side by side, highlighting the similarities and differences in their styles and concerns. (Also included in the show is a documentary about their work, Jerry Uelsmann & Maggie Taylor: This is Not Photography, in which they describe how they work and what inspires them.) Seen together, Taylor and Uelsmann’s work suggests a dialogue in which separate voices trade ideas. Writes the Museum in a statement, “The difference in feel between the black and white work of Uelsmann and the color-filled work of Taylor is distinct; seen alongside each other, however, their photographic montages share symbolism and attributes suggesting mystery, introspection, and change.”