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Photography and Collage

Spring 2023

March 20th - June 21st

Last month, after having given a presentation on creativity and my journey in photography, I was asked what I thought about recent developments in artificial intelligence image generators - a topic that’s been floating around quite a bit lately. In reflecting back on my answer, I wished I’d spoken more about disruption and response.

Photography itself started as an enormous shock to the system when it arrived on the scene in the first half of the 19th century. “As of today, painting is dead!” French painter Paul Delaroche exclaimed after seeing his first photograph. And yet …within a fairly short amount of time, the response from the art world was a creative leap into Impressionism. Using photography, painters now could literally see the world from fresh viewpoints and they found inspiration in new ideas about fragmentation and the use of light as subject. There was a wonderful exhibition at the Thyssen Museum in Madrid a few years ago exploring the relationship between the Impressionists and photography. Curated by Paloma Alarcó, the exhibition explores the symbiotic relationship between the two art forms.


Sasha Stone, untitled collage,1920 - 1940, Digital image courtesy of Getty’s Open Content Program.

So, here we are in the early part of the 21st century, recently recovered from the Digital disruption and now we’re faced with Artificial Intelligence. What is our response? A significant approach has been the rise in analog and the handmade - photography as a unique object. This is so wonderfully evident in the use of collage, an  exploration and expansion of ways to find meaning through the assembling, cutting, pasting, even sewing, of imagery and other materials. This celebration of our humanity through the process of self-expression - that will endure, and in fact, I believe it will continue to flourish in the face of whatever disruptions come our way.

This showcase has a few changes, one is my publishing will now be quarterly, I love the idea of following the seasons. Additionally, this showcase was a collaboration with Amandine Nabarra, whose work was featured in my last showcase on Artist’s Books. It was very interesting to work hands-on with another artist. You are often unaware of your own process until you need to walk someone else through it and I found it very invigorating. The following is her introduction to this showcase:

What do we mean by collage? It is the technique of pasting any media on various surfaces including three-dimensional elements. It can be a strategy to layer different meanings into one final project. From Hannah Höch's political and social commentary in early 20th century to Annette Messager’s installations in the 70s, collage is firmly grounded in the history of photography.

Nowadays it’s easier to create collage with digital tools but we found that most artists blend different techniques to set their work apart from their peers. In today’s digital age how images are combined to tell a story is more important than the techniques used. Collage is a strategy to break from the overly realistic depictions of digital photography. It adds a level of abstraction that challenges the viewer. All photographic processes can be used with one another opening the gate to endless possibilities that can better express the artist’s voice.

It’s important to note that assemblage artists are not always photographers, many are painters and sculptors. Some incorporate images into found objects or containers, others create new objects into which the photography is embedded. These compositions naturally evolve into three dimensional work and push the audience to look closer and think about the artist’s intent.

Juxtaposition, layering, fragmentation and the use of paint, or other media, are all collage and assemblage techniques and are a way to think outside the box and create new metaphors. These can convey emotion and other dimensions, adding depth and meaning that reach the viewer's mind at a subconscious level,  allowing  them to create their own narrative. Here are six bold artists who have successfully used these techniques.
- Amandine Nabarra

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