Grad school was Zone System, spot meters and big cameras. When I describe this to other photographers the first assumption is that we made landscapes just like Ansel Adams (love you, Ansel, you’ll get a turn soon). Of course we did! We had big cameras and spot meters.
But some of us would take our bulging binders of negatives into the group darkroom and claim multiple enlargers. We would spend hours creating images from multiple negatives. We had to work fast and finish before the beginning students needed the darkroom! Photoshop was not on our radar just yet.
Our inspiration was Jerry Uelsman. He was not the first photographer to combine negatives (Gustave LeGray, Oscar Gustave Rejlander, Henry Peach Robinson just to name a few). Uelsman’s images are contemplative and surreal with lush silky tones. The images are lovely and powerful.
What I learned from Jerry Uelsman, and my mentor in grad school, is that it doesn’t matter how you get to your final image or idea. Just get there. Uelsman and Adams were buddies with a mutual respect for each other’s images and processes.
I’ve included my first darkroom montage. It’s called Ozymandias after the poem by Shelly.