Great photographers, like Edward Weston, Ansel Adams, and Henri Cartier-Bresson, were great because they thought in the pre-visualization process. They considered the “perfect moment,” also known as the “decisive moment” to be the premier mode of working in photography. They had to plan for the perfect light, composition, proportion, movement, and texture before hitting the shutter button.
What About Post-Visualization?
However, Jerry Uelsmann, thought about photography in a post-modern way through post-visualization. He challenged himself to think creatively in the darkroom, after the image had been composed and shot. Uelsmann felt that young photographers only thought about using their “minds and eyes for the purpose of making important aesthetic and technical decisions only at the beginning and end of the photographic ritual.”
He further wanted to “encourage young photographers to get off the street and back into the darkroom.” Uelsmann stated, “Few venturesome souls have tentatively explored the darkroom world of the camera-less image, the negative sandwich, multiple printings, the limited tonal scale, et cetera.” While many considered the darkroom as a sterile scientific lab merely to produce an image, Uelsmann felt that the darkroom was a place for creative self-discovery, observation, and meditation. Thus, he wanted to push photographers to explore visualization at any point in the photographic process.
What Post-Visualization Meant to Me
Before reading more about Jerry Uelsmann and his work, I didn’t really understand the post-visualization process. I felt completely flustered and very uncomfortable thinking about visualizing an image after the fact. I am planner through and through, which meant I was more comfortable in the pre-visualization process.
But in photography, when there are rules to follow, art teaches you that breaking the rules can be worth it, if you’re willing to walk in that space.
I’ve already shared this fun negative sandwich image, which reminds me of so many of those Pinterest worthy digital images that portrait photographers love to make. Although this faceless image echoes more of an eerie, ghost-like portraiture.
Then I came across this image and tried to work with some dodging and burning with other images. They all came up flat and empty.
After several failed attempts, and much frustration in the darkroom, I decided to go back to the negative sandwich technique. Parts of it looked interesting, but other areas were blotted out by too much sunlight.
However, when I added a Sabatier Effect, it created a whole new look. If you look carefully, you’ll notice two lamps. One took the Sabatier effect quite well, while the other lamp was exposed to the usual developing practices.
Although I felt uncomfortable working in a post-visualization environment, I valued how artists, such as Jerry Uelsmann, used their creativity to think in this way. It has taught me to further open my thought process to a wider array of alternative practices that has yet to be tapped.
From my hometown to yours,