P is for Photomontage

| May 4, 2014

As a kid I used to cut up magazines and collage my walls with a mix of ads, celebrities, and photos of places I wanted to go. In History of Photography class learning about photomontage I was struck by differences of these two things. My wacky collages were just fun, aspirational images that I thought were beautiful from Vanity Fair.

The proper definition of a photomontage is clear that it is more than a collage, it is the composite of two or more photographs to create an unreal subject. Sometimes the image is created to seem like one seamless print othertimes it is purposefully left so that the viewer can tell it is a composite, this has been done traditionally with film and can today be done with photo editing software.

Photomontage has an interesting lineage starting in Victorian times where there are examples of humorous photomontages of the wrong head on the wrong body. Photomontage postcards were very popular in the Victorian and Edwardian times and grew in popularity during WWI when there were many images of soldiers on one continent and families on another. After WWI in Berlin Dada was growing, as these artists were looking for a new means of expression photomontage grew into a true art form, especially because of the capabilities for abstraction. They wanted an art form to comment on the chaos of WWI with the impersonal mechanical capabilities wholly unlike German Expressionist painting photomontage was the perfect fit.  The famous Dada-ists who mastered this technique were John Heartfield, Hannah Hoch, and Raoul Hausmann. Photomontage became rapidly assimilated into propaganda messages and advertising.

In Germany Heartfield used photomontage to ridicule Nazism while in the Soviet Union Gustav Klucis, El Lissitzky, Aleksandr Rodchenko and Sergey Senkin created Communist propaganda in support of the Communist party.

John Heartfield Adolf the Superman: Swallows Gold and Spouts Junk,  1932,