Part 1: Coalition
'Coalition', the theme for this part of assignment 1, was inspired by the current political climate. Following on from the shock of Brexit, the Americans chose Donald Trump to be their president, despite apparent interference from the Russians, and the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, scraped past the finishing post to remain in power, with the support of the Democratic Unionist Party. These unpredictable times have starred a variety of political adversaries, who have many opposing views. The outsider often sees these figures portrayed separately in the media, and depending on the media's political preference will determine what sound-bytes the viewer hears. I was intrigued to explore how their images could be merged together to create one entity, which focuses more closely on them as individuals rather than parties.
Over a week, I looked for suitable images on the Internet. I needed to print them out at home, so they needed to be a suitable resolution to print clearly. When I was looking for photograph paper to buy, it occurred to me that I had never used my printer to print photographs. It was a step into the unknown and I was unsure how my ideas would turn out.
My starting point and inspiration for this was John Stezaker's 'Marriage' series, in which he combined male and female publicity shots of film icons to create a hybrid celebrity. In Stezaker's montages, the two segments compete against each other for the viewer's attention. I wanted to replicate this for the politicians who compete for the electorate's attention.
Jeremy and Theresa
My first photo montage is of Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May. In order to find two images that would be easy to match, I used Photoshop to ensure that when printing each one onto 4" x 6" paper that they would align with each other. I didn't want to waste cutting up a photograph to find out that each person was not in proportion to the other. Also, I converted the colour photos to black and white, so that the colours did not detract from the overall image, in keeping with Stezaker's style. After using a craft knife to cut Jeremy Corbyn's face, I lined up each half based on where the nose would be. It was after I had finished the photo montage that I realised I was able to make a second one from the cuttings that were left over.
At first, I was unsure if this had been successful. Image 3 (below) shows my first attempt at combining the two photographs. Something didn't quite look right. After closer inspection, I realised that both eyes were unnaturally looking to the edge of the face. However, I did like the fact the direction that each MP was looking reflected their political views (Jeremy Corbyn looking left and Theresa May looking right).
Image 4 is my preferred version. With them looking cross-eyed, there is a satirical quality to the final image.
Donald and Hilary
For this image, I looked for portrait photographs in which Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton are looking in the same direction. I also converted them to monochrome so that they would be similar to Stezaker's montages.
Arlene and Michelle
Arlene Foster, the Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, and Michelle O'Neill, the leader of Sinn Fein, were the subject for this next photo montage. I wanted to explore how their faces could be cut up and combined in a different way to my previous two photo montages. Images 1 and 2 were chosen because the face fills the frame, and this is what I wanted the viewer to focus on. I have also chosen them because they are similar in size, so that they will combine together well, and the white background avoids any distractions from each leader.
At first, I cut each photograph into vertical strips, each 2cm wide. I then alternated a strip from each face to create two montages (Images 3 and 4). However the strips seemed to be too wide to produce the effect that I was after. Therefore, I reprinted the photographs and cut 1cm wide strips instead. When I alternated the strips it produced a much more mixed up varied image (Image 5 and 6), which I preferred.
Taking the time to print and cut up the photographs for this assignment has enabled be to be more creative. The 'hands-on' and time consuming nature of this process has enabled me to develop my ideas further, whereas if I had used a computer there would have been the distraction of multi-tasking. I had the time to fully concentrate on what I was doing and what I wanted the outcome to be. Whilst I was producing the Kim and Kim montage (mentioned later in this assignment), I started to think back to Arlene and Michelle, and how I could develop it further by adding a 3D element to it.
An artist who influenced my ideas was Erwin Blumenfeld. I liked how he used distortion in his images and vertical lines, such as in the video below.
I printed off the original photographs again (Images 1 and 2) and put them side by side. This time I decided to use both photographs to created one image. I had been happy with the 1cm widths, some I cut both photographs up in the same way as before. After that, I used a craft knife to score vertical lines, 1cm apart, along a piece of white card. The scored lines then made it easier to fold the card into a concertina shape. Then I glued alternating strips from both photographs onto the card (Image 7). When looking at the image from above, the viewer can see a distortion of both faces (Image 8). However, if you look at the image from the side, then you will see just one portrait. When you move across the image, the portrait gradually merges into the other, until you can only see the second portrait on the other side.
In order to illustrate this effect, I used my iPhone to film across the image. Then I imported the video file into Photoshop to create an animated gif (Image 9). I set it up so that it will continue to loop forwards and backwards. I could imagine the animated gif being used in a digital exhibition in which traditional and modern photo montages have been combined. The resulting montage represents how supporters of both leaders often only see one side of a political debate, and are blind to the other view. The middle view represents the centre ground, a mixture of both ideologies.
Donald and Vladimir
Stories about Russian influence in the American Presidential election continue to haunt Donald Trump. At first, I wanted to imitate how Stezaker uses a landscape photograph to cover part of the subject. in his 'Old Mask' collages. I chose a photograph of the Kremlin (Image 1), as a reference to Russian political interference, and a photograph of Donald Trump on the phone (Image 2). I enlarged Image 2, so that the photograph of the Kremlin would cover Trump's face. However, the resulting image didn't say what I wanted it to say. After looking at Kennard Phillips' work, I decided to cut out Trump's face, and replace it with part of the Kremlin, including the Russian flag (Image 4). The message in the resulting image seems stronger than the one in image 3. It's as if the Russians are in his head.
Maggie and Theresa
During the 2017 British General Election, comparisons had been made between Theresa May and Margaret Thatcher. For example, May wanted to take away children's free school meals, and Thatcher had snatched their milk. For this montage I wanted to express how a person's views can be based on those in the past. I thought that Michel Lamoller's layering technique could be a way to illustrate this.
Therefore I found a photograph of Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May. I used Photoshop to ensure that the facial features were lined up. Then I chose to cut out parts of Theresa May's face, so that when it was placed on top of the first photograph, Thatcher's hair, eye and mouth would be revealed.
Kim and Kim
At the moment, the world is anticipating the possibility of a nuclear war between America and North Korea. North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un is a very unpredictable leader who is intent on having a nuclear capability. Whilst looking for images of him on the Internet, I came across two contrasting portraits. The first one shows a very serious, formal pose (Image 1), whilst the one shows a less formal, smiling portrait. Looking at the two images, it felt as though we often have a differing identities, which we adopt depending on the purpose of the photograph. The formal pose is like a skin, which could be peeled back to reveal a different persona.
Abigail Reynolds creates geometric collages using found imagery from magazines, atlases, journals and old books. Her work includes how places have altered over time, by covering an older photograph with the same view taken more recently. She then peels back parts of the top layer to reveal the earlier version, such as Trafalgar Square between 1970 and 2015. I decided to adopt this technique for a montage of the two portraits, cutting open various facial features to reveal a happier Kim. On the back of the top layer, I printed an image of a mushroom cloud (Image 3). It represents the inner motivation of Kim Jong-un and the fine line between security and armageddon.
Part 2: Fragments
For the second part of this assignment, I wanted to continue with the theme of portraiture. Whilst I was researching paper folded photo montages or the first part of this assignment, I came across the work of Julie Cockburn. At first I thought that her intricate geometric portraits had been created by folding up copies of the same photograph. However, when I searched on the Internet for Cockburn's technique, I came across a video (below) which very clearly explains how to use a clipping mask and the shape tool in Photoshop to replicate her style.
Julie Cockburn rearranges the facial features on to a duplicate portrait. She is fascinated by the disconnect between the subject and the photograph. Following the video tutorial (above) I successfully manipulated and recombined my eldest son's face (below) by tessellating equilateral triangles. I was happy that the technique had worked and pleased that I had learnt new skills.
After re-reading the assignment brief, it was clear that I needed to use a minimum of two images. I decided to leave the assignment for a few days to see if I could use this technique to produce a more meaningful image.
Then, whilst we were getting ready for my eldest son's 5th birthday, I was able to develop my idea further. I had been looking at photographs of when my son had been born and how much he has changed over the years. I realised that looking back through my archive, I had forgotten what he used to look like. My memories are like fragments of images of him.
To represent this, I decided to use a recent portrait that had been taken in an ice-cream parlour. I chose the image because of the similar colours and unfussy geometric shaped background. In order to mimic Cockburn's nostalgic feel to her photographs, I used the 'process' filter in iPhoto.
For the geometric shapes, I used a portrait photograph of my son, which I had taken during the first week after his birth. I also applied the process filter to it. Since he is now 5, I wanted to use a regular pentagon for the clipping mask. However this did not tessellate easily, so I used a regular hexagon instead. I then followed the steps in the tutorial to position parts of his baby face onto his current face (below). I was pleased that I chose to use the hexagon. It tessellated well and was large enough to contain enough visual information.
This assignment has enabled me to rediscover the printed photograph, and made me realise that I should be printing out more photographs. The length of time needed to produce the photo montages in part 1 enabled me to think through and develop my ideas. I thoroughly enjoyed being fully engrossed in the work, which enabled me to improve on my work. This has made me realise that when working digitally, I might not be fully engaged with the task, or I complete it too quickly, without giving myself time to fully develop my ideas.
I have carried out a number of different techniques, based on the work of John Stezaker, Michel Lamoller, Abigail Reynolds, Erwin Blumenfeld and Julie Cockburn, as well as a more purposeful use of animated gifs. Rather than adopt a consistent series of images across this assignment, I have used this as an opportunity to be creative and try out new approaches to photo montage. I now have new ideas and techniques which I may be able to utilise later on in this course and beyond. It has also made me realise that digital does not have to end at the screen. It can be printed and manipulated away from the computer.