The Surreal Photography of Jerry Uelsmann

November 14, 2009 – January 17, 2010

Dorothy Jenkins Gallery

Jerry Uelsmann is arguably the most important photographer working today. Fifty years ago he began creating beautiful montages by hand in the darkroom. When he began combining multiple negatives onto a single print, his work was considered an intense challenge to the world of photographic art. Today, he is understood to be a true visionary and pioneer, paving the way for much of the most daring contemporary photography. Yet the power and beauty of his work is still stunning even in this age of digital cameras, printers and software.

Uelsmann has stated that he tries to create “images that challenge reality and sustain their mystery for a prolonged period of time.” His surreal photographs bring together many of the hopes and questions that occur to us when we let our imaginations wander. Although he is not attempting to illustrate dreams, he does “have a dreamlike sensibility” and looks to create images that encourage his viewers to seek new ways of seeing the real world beyond the expected or answering questions with “stock answers.”

This exhibition is drawn primarily from Polk County collections, including the Museum’s. It presents a wide look at the career of Jerry Uelsmann, beginning with work during his years in graduate school, through his 30-plus years as a professor at University of Florida, all the way through to his 21st century work.

Born in Detroit in 1934, Uelsmann received a BFA degree from the Rochester Institute of Technology and graduate degrees from Indiana University. He joined the faculty of University of Florida in 1960. During his career, Uelsmann has received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. His work has been collected by major museums throughout the world, including the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the National Gallery of Canada, the National Gallery of Australia, the Bibliotheque National in Paris, the National Museum of Modern Art in Kyoto, and the Museum of Photography in Seoul.

Exhibition Sponsors:
Food Partners — Webb Tanner and Deanna Rhodes-Tanner
Kerry and Buffy Wilson

Additional support provided by:
Polk County Tourism and Sports Marketing


  • Cowles Charitable Trust
  • Dorothy Chao Jenkins
  • Mark & Lynn Hollis
  • Ron and Becky Johnson
  • The Reitzel Foundation
  • The Hazelle Paxson Morrison Foundation
  • BCI Engineers & Scientists
  • Summit Consulting, Inc.