UMBC Collector Gets Collected

The Library houses an assemblage of work by UMBC photographer Jerry Stephany.

UMBC’s Special Collections is one of the country’s leading resources for photography, science fiction, biological science archives and numerous other rare books and artifacts. With over two million photographic images, including those by Ansel Adams, Diane Arbus and Berenice Abbott, the Photography Collection includes a vast array of photographic treasures, many of which were acquired with the help of former UMBC professor Jaromir “Jerry” Stephany. An influential photographer and teacher, Stephany’s papers now reside in the collection he helped build. Stephany’s papers, which are now available online, hold insights not only into Stephany’s teaching career, but also his personal life and the history of photography in general.

Born in 1930, Jerry Stephany enjoyed a life in photography. He trained as a combat photographer during the Cold War and in 1956, Stephany received his degree from the Rochester Institute of Technology, where he studied under famed photographers Ralph Hattersly and Minor White. Four years later, Stephany earned a Master of Fine Art from Indiana University, where he studied cliché verre – a technique involving drawing, painting, etching or otherwise altering a glass surface, then photographically printing the image created.

Stephany first began teaching the history of photography while at the George Eastman House in New York. In 1966, Stephany moved to Baltimore to start teaching at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), where he served as the chair of the department of photography and film.

Stephany left MICA in 1973 to become an associate professor of photography at UMBC. While here, Stephany established the photography program, and under his guidance, UMBC’s Special Collections began developing its Photography Collections. Even after his formal retirement in 1999, Stephany remained an active member of the UMBC community, continuing to teach a history of photography course and serving on the Council of the Friends of the Albin O. Kuhn Library and Gallery every year.

In his photography, Stephany maintained a fascination with the abstract and with science fiction. Throughout his career, he would also return to the cliché verre method. Stephany exhibited his photographs at a number of venues, including the George Eastman House, Baltimore Museum of Modern Art, Albin O. Kuhn Library and Gallery, Smithsonian Institution and International Center of Photography. UMBC’s Library Gallery hosted a retrospective of his works, with an emphasis on Cliché Verre, Music of the Mind: Jaromir Stephany Photographs and Digital Images, in 2010, one month before his passing.

The Jaromir Stephany papers contain records relating to Stephany’s work as a photographer and educator, as well as his personal papers. Included in this collection are professional and personal correspondence, teaching materials, personal photographs, genealogical records and documents from Stephany’s exhibitions. There are also personal writings, interviews with Stephany, and audio-recordings of lectures given by other photographers.

The papers were processed by history graduate students, Robin Martin, Johanna Schein and Dorothy Alexander, under the guidance of archivist, Lindsey Loeper.

Want to see the records in person? Contact Special Collections to set up an appointment at 410-455-2353 or email speccoll@umbc.edu.

A monograph of Stephany’s cliché verres, Jaromir Stephany: Music of the Mind, written by chief curator of the Library Gallery, Tom Beck, and inspired by the 2010 exhibition, is available through artbook.com.

Photo: Quark S01-007B, c. 2000, Jeromir Stephany, Music of the Mind: Cliche Verre Photographs and Digital Imagery of Jaromir Stephany

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Stephany art collection