country of citizenship: United States of America
occupation: photographer, author, novelist, writer, science fiction writer
award received: Distinguished Flying Cross
For the Florida photographer with a phonetically similar name, see Jerry UelsmannJerry Yulsman ( February 8, 1924 – August 6, 1999) was an American novelist and a photographer best known for his photographs of Jack Kerouac, notably the cover illustration on Joyce Johnson's memoir Minor Characters.
Yulsman's first camera was a $13.50 Argus, given to him by his aunt as a 12th birthday present. He used it to photograph Roosevelt in a torchlit parade. "I was a good photographer," he recalled. "I understood both the language and the magic. It seemed to come naturally, like a gift from Providence."
Expelled from Simon Grantz High School, Yulsman lied about his age in March 1941 in order to enlist in the U.S. Army Air Corps. In the Army photography school at Denver's Lowry Field, he learned to operate a "gun camera." Serving in North Africa during World War II, he was promoted to Master Sergeant, and on August 1, 1943, he flew in Operation Tidal Wave, a bombing raid on the Romanian oil refineries of Ploeşti, which were a major source of oil for the Nazi war machine. This combat action brought him the Distinguished Flying Cross, which is awarded for "heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight."
After the war, Yulsman moved to Manhattan where he became a successful freelance photojournalist, shooting "jazz, politics and girls" and hanging out in Greenwich Village at the Limelight Cafe, while contributing to Playboy, Collier's, Look and other magazines. During this period he teamed up with author Cornelius Ryan (The Longest Day) on a story about the world's fastest submarine. He also did photographs for two Dick Gregory books, From the Back of the Bus (Avon, 1962) and What's Happening? (1965), which offered instruction on "how to recognize Uncle Tom."
During the 1970s, Yulsman worked for the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus for four years and taught photography at the School of Visual Arts. He wrote several instructional books on photography, including Jerry Yulsman Tells How to Take Glamour Photographs (1960), The Complete Book of 8mm Movie Making (1972), The Complete Book of 35mm Photography (1976) and Color Photography Simplified (1977). His personal approach to photography was expressed when he stated, "I believe that the main function of photography is a historical one. I think of photos first as historical documents, delineating time and place, and only secondarily as possible works of art."
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