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Maggie Taylor: Making images is a way of life

Maggie Taylor-images

A profile described how artist Maggie Taylor works:

“Using 19th century tin-types, photographs, and images, she scanned them on a flatbed scanner. She then combines them with some other images that she photographed, acquired, or other objects that she scanned. These images are then composed, combined, and colorized by using the Adobe Photoshop program. In a typical image composed by Taylor, there can be as many as 40-60+ layers.

“Taylor received her BA degree in philosophy from Yale University and her MFA degree in photography from the University of Florida.  In 1996 and 2001 she received State of Florida Individual Artist’s Fellowships.  In 2004 she won the Santa Fe Center for Photography’s Project Competition.  She lives in Gainesville, Florida with her husband, photographer Jerry Uelsmann.” [From bio at Modernbook Gallery site – apparently no longer online.]

The post title comes from an interview with Steve Anchell in which she says: “Making images for me is a way of life. I can’t imagine not doing it . . . I guess in terms of what motivates me, the best answer would be, if I don’t make images I’m unhappy.”

[In the Introduction to his book The Van Gogh Blues, creativity coach and author Eric Maisel, PhD says that “creating is such a crucial activity in the life of a creator. It is one of the ways, and often the most important way, that she manages to make life feel meaningful. Not creating is depressing because she is not making meaning when she is not creating.”]

Anchell notes, “It takes a long time to make these layered images; sometimes a couple of weeks, sometimes six months. Working on more than one image at a time, she might have four or five projects going at once. Because the digital files are so big, they are rarely all open at one time. She’ll open one, work on it for a day or two, then close it, make a little print to tack up on the wall and live with it for a while, then start on another one.”

Taylor says, “This is a very convenient way for me to work, because I’m always being interrupted, or I might only have an hour or two hours in a working session, so I can save the image and come back to it another day. So it’s definitely something that works well for me. I can take a break from the computer, go outside for awhile and work in the garden, or do something completely different, then come back and start again. The images feed off each other this way.”

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What inspired me to write this post was seeing a number of large-scale prints of her work (and other exciting images by various digital artists) in the Digital Darkroom show at The Annenberg Space for Photography, Los Angeles, CA, December 17, 2011 through May 28, 2012.

Her work is so evocative, rich with symbols and themes of inner states and unusual realities. In another interview, Taylor talked about this aspect of her creations.

Small Possible Worlds“To me the images work on two levels: they are about these specific objects, yet they also invite reverie or recollections. I like to think that the objects are obviously symbolic, but not symbolically obvious. Most of the items have some sort of resonance or uniqueness for me when I first see them, whether that happens in a flea market or out in the yard.

“As I begin to work with them, and particularly after I use an object in several different images, that object begins to develop a personality for me. Some of the objects begin to play roles as if in a small theater in front of the camera or on the computer screen.”

But she is “usually in the dark as far as the symbolism – especially when I am working. Some of the objects have a resonance for me, and others might even call up specific memories. But when I put them all together, they often add up to more than I consciously had in mind at the time I was outside photographing. I like the images to be ambiguous and even a little disturbing or uncomfortable.”

Like perhaps most artists who create emotionally impactful work, she creates from “personal experience, from my own memories and dreams – from my psyche. Many times what I make work about is very pedestrian: the everyday life, stray thoughts, feelings of anxiety, boredom, something I remembered from a science class, something I dreamed last Tuesday.

“In this sense, I think of this work as autobiographical. Sometimes the very ordinary content or emotion expressed in an image is at odds with the vibrant color and quirky presentation. I am kind of interested in setting up a conflict between the very mundane aspects of an ordinary life (What time is dinner? What am I going to do today?) and a very vibrant, lush, heroic style of art.”

[From interview with Paul Karabinis, Director of the University of North Florida Gallery in Jacksonville, in 1998.]


Here is a short video about a course on the work of both Taylor and her husband:

From the description: “He experiments in a darkroom. She composes on a computer screen. Together, husband-and-wife artists Jerry Uelsmann and Maggie Taylor broke free of traditional notions of photography to create haunting, layered dreamscapes that challenge the medium’s possibilities.

“Step inside their Florida compound to see their complementary work and contrasting processes—and find out how they overcame the early skepticism of their art-world peers to become luminaries in their field.”

See more videos and information about the course:

Jerry Uelsmann & Maggie Taylor: This is not photography

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Adobe Photoshop Master Class: Maggie Taylor’s Landscape of Dreams.

Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland: Illustrated By Maggie Taylor.

Lower image by Maggie Taylor: “Small Possible Worlds.”

Her site:

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Maggie Taylor: Making images is a way of life

Douglas Eby

Douglas EbyDouglas Eby, MA/Psychology, is a writer and researcher on psychology and personal development related to creativity; creator of the , and author of books including [link to book site with excerpts.]
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Some excerpts from The Creative Mind are included in his newsletter .
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APA Reference
Eby, D. (2014). Maggie Taylor: Making images is a way of life. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 21, 2020, from


Last updated: 21 Jul 2014
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