Saturday, 15 October 2011


Still really interested in photomontage and surrealism I picked up the following book from the library, Photomontage A Step-by Step Guide to Building Pictures. Illustrated and written by Stephen Golding. Published by Rockport Publishers, Inc Massachusetts 1997.

Whilst some of the techniques discussed and shared are now out of date I was more interested in the later chapters, The Gallery, which gives details of other artists and the work they do.

Stephen Golding has been creating photographic art for more than twenty-five years with work displayed at the DeCordova Museum, the Krannert Art Museum and Harvard and Princetown Universities. When he started creating his art and until 1991,  his work was done mechanically, but with the dawn of the digital era he readily embraced new technology describing it as "like going from cutting pictures with knife between my teeth to having both hands freed. Digital imaging released the photograph from its analog binds and made it as malleable as one's imagination."

Golding continues to use mechanical processes but states " In recent years I've integrated three dimensional imaging into my process. While I've maintained my connection with photography, most of the mechanical techniques have been greatly reduced or eliminated." More information and examples of his work can be found here.

Not sure that I totally appreciate his final images but reading the artists statement that accompanied the separate series helped me understand his intentions and appreciate why they had been created and the success,or not, (well for me at least) of the message he wanted to put over. This ties in really well with the recent OCA newsletter with the video from Miranda Gavin....but I'll probably cover that in a different post as it is so easy to digress....

In considering book design, in fact any means of expression, the medium of photomontage has limitless possibilities therefore enabling artists to communicate complex ideas within a single image. The advantage is also the ability to mix media and techniques; every process be it painting, photography, collage or airbrushing will bring something else to the table.

What I also loved about this book was that the foreword by John P Jacob (Director, The Photographic Resource Centre at Boston University) introduced me to names such as Oscar G. Rejlander and H.P Robinson who were practising photomontage back in the Victorian Era....more photographers to look at :o)

American photographer Lewis Hine extended the practice into a new direction, using it for political means. He combined text with his images of working children and put pressure on the US government. His montage Making Human Junk led the way to the enactment of U.S. child labour laws (p7)

Lewis Hine Making Human Junk

Another new name (who I can't believe I had never come across) is John Heartfield. Born 1891 as Helmut Herzfeld he changed his name partly in protest at WWI; highly critical of the Weimar Republic ( The German Parliamentary Republic formed in 1919) Heartfield's work was banned by the Third Reich.


Blood and Iron

March 8, 1934
This piece is Hearfield’s interpretation of the Nazi military slogan. Blood dripping from the swastika infers that the military (weapons and soldiers) was all Germany needed for victory.
I think his work was really powerful and intend to look at it more closely as time allows.

More recently, artist Jerry Uelsmann proves photomontage can work beautifully in black and white. He does not use photoshop, all his images are created from negatives using multiple enlarges. Great interview on Shutterbug Master Interview; Jerry Uelsmann | Shutterbug and a few of my favourite quotes were

JU: The joke that I tell when I lecture to art students is, "What happens when you cross a post-modernist with a used car salesman?" The answer is, you get an offer you can't understand. That always draws a big laugh from the college students because they're required to read stuff that is so complex that much of it doesn't make any sense, at least not to me.

JU: Right. That's important. I've enjoyed teaching photography to all kinds of students from beginning to graduate level, and I've always felt that walking around with their cameras gave them all kinds of insights that were as important as spending hours in the library.
Jerry Uelsman

Jerry Uelsman
Another contemporary artist is Barbara Kruger who 'strives to communicate a meaningful narrative', often being described as creating 'feminist art'

Moving onto The Gallery, the first artist whose work struck me was Audrey Bernstein.  The examples in the book reflect on the symbols of life, birth and death and were created using multiple exposures. Using a twin-lens reflex camera these pictures were composed by placing masks on the viewfinder. These and more recent work can be found on her website

Audrey Bernstein And She Was Esther

Maryjean Viano Crowe

The series examined in Photomontage  is titled Daughters of Mystery,  which were created with varied picture elements. Large scale photographs from 'eleborate negatives' were painted and 'toned' then taped together. In this series Viano Crowe was looking at pain, family and loss. Her current website appears to be being re-vamped as each page has 'coming soon' on which is a shame! I couldn't seem to find this set online but I really liked the romantic ethereal feel it had.

William Larson

As the book was published some time ago the artists mentioned have explored more than the images and series provided.   William Larson : The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage In The Theatre du Monde Larson juxtaposes different images by using a theatre curtain. The layout is reminiscent of a magazine with the narratives printed on the photograph.

From the series Theatre du Monde

From the series Theatre du Monde

Osamu James Nakagawa

The images shown in the book are from Nakagawa's series Billboards his statement is

Much of my life has been divided between Japan and America. As a result, I feel like a stranger to both Japanese and English languages and cultures. Photography has become my expressive bridge.

I am interested in the mythology of The American Dream, as outwardly reflected in the early part of this century in the United States and currently exported globally by media. A myth that is based in the psychology of our perceived notions of the United States with its excess of materials, ideologies, and freedoms. This series of photographs attempts to subvert icons of American Culture with unexpected environments. By changing the context of familiar imagery to Americans, the viewer becomes an observer and is asked to question the ideology of The American Dream.

The nostalgic mythology of the drive-in theater is juxtaposed with explicitly public and political messages. Similarly, the commercial nature of the billboard is subverted. The series as a whole proposes a critical inspection of Western society from my particular viewpoint, which is Eastern in origin and Western by immersion.

 I found I really enjoyed his work, particularly Between the Past and Following the Lifecycle of Life maybe because I empathise with them; I have been tracing my family tree, my father died when I was 18 and I was recently given some family photos of relations and places I have no recollection of/ only knew as great aunts and uncles.

Nakagawa's use of photomontage brings together many threads within a story of life.

From the series Billboards

From the series Ma Between 

Bart Parker

Am not having much fun with artists websites, the set Business as Usual is 'under construction' which of course is the series mentioned.....

Bart Parker works in photographic collage to reorder the world he sees, bringing the natural together with the human, seeking difficulties and discrepancies.
from the series Salad Days

From the Series Life on the Ecliptic
Olivia Parker

After graduating from Wellesley College with a degree in the History of Art, Parker began her career as a painter, and became involved in photography in 1970.  Mostly self-taught she makes ephemeral constructions to photograph and experiments with the endless possibilities of light. 

From Toys and Games 1993-2001

Sometimes toys get more real than they are supposed to and emotions waver between fiction and nonfiction.  Occasionally my toys may seem bizarre, but when compared to what is available in real toy stores for real children they are not very strange at all.  They evolve from such traditional strategies of toy making as the creation of automata, the changing of human or animal forms toward caricature, the monstrous or the juvenile, or the piecing together of odds and ends.  Some reflect the method of toy makers who know very little about the sources of their toys be they helicopters or elephants but proceed anyway.  This approach reminds me of a Reverend Mr. Johnston, who in the seventeenth century published an elaborate illustrated natural history filled with pictures of animals he had never seen.  There is a  pull toy in this exhibition dedicated to him.


Mr Johnson's Pull-a-long Toy

Tulip Adorned 2008

Vaughn Elaine Sills

Remembering Myself Knowing Our Distance

Leslie Starobin

Messiah  Driving North to Golan Blue on Rembrandt Street

Jane Tuckerman

The Displaced One

At the time of writing this book Golding stated when discussing either digital or mechanical methods 'generally most artists work in one or the other, with a growing number using both.' The gallery of artists within the book represented all of those groups. I've had a quick peek at the work of artists who I could find, I shall have to look more closely to see if they do in fact still embrace the same techniques or if they have changed direction at all. The artists who were creating their work mechanically were Audrey Bernsteain, Maryjean Viano Crowe, Robert Hirsch, William Larson, Bart Parker, Vaughn Sills, Esther Solondz and Jane Tuckerman. Tose working digitally were Richard Rosenblum, Osamu James Nakagawa, Martina Lopez, Olivia Parker, Leslie Starobin and Anna Ullrich. The observation he made was that those using mechanical means mixed their media while those working digitally tended to 'stay within that realm.' (p106) Possibly something else to research? Do digital artists these days mix mediums?

As ever more research leads to more questions and does one have the time to follow all paths?
to be completed......but a list of names to look at over the coming weeks.....

Research [Accessed 15 October 2011] [Accessed 16 October 2011] [Accessed 16 October 2011] [Accessed 15 October 2011] [Accessed 16 October 2011] [Accessed 15 October 2011] [Accessed 15 October 2011] [Accessed 15 October 2011] [Accessed 15 October 2011]

Golding, S. (1997) Photomontage A Step-by Step Guide to Building Pictures. Rockport Publishers, Inc : Massachusetts

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