The origins of photomontage

Now that we are living in the 'digital age', it would be excusable to consider analogue photography to be 'what you see is what you get'. With so many image manipulation tools available to the modern day photographer, such as filters, cloning and air brushing, it is difficult to confidently view jpegs and raw files today as one hundred per cent accurate. In order for an image to stand out from the crowd and saturated market place, it would seem as though every image needs to encapsulate perfection. We live in a sterile world, without blemishes and sun flares. This view is shared by Bull (2010: 22) who warns that, "the more questionable 'reality' depicted in digital photographs fits a postmodern period of uncertainty.

Naively, I used to believe that image manipulation was a by product of photo editing software, such as Photoshop. However, after reading about the origins of photomontage, I have come to realise that, even since the days of Talbot and Daguerre, no image is an exact representation of the place the exposure was made. Manovich (2003: 245) sums this up by stating that, "Digital technology does not subvert 'normal' photography because 'normal' photography never existed." For example, Oscar Rejlander's 'The Two Ways of Life' (1857) is a combination of thirty images. 

Now that I am more aware of how the Victorians cut-up and reassembled photographs, it is clear that modern day methods are just a continuation of earlier methods. Photo editing software is the modern day alternative that just enables the photographer to speed up the editing process.  



Bull, S. (2010) Photography. Routledge: London