DATES 1848 1850 1851 1856 1857 1858 1858 1860s ~ 1865 1860s ~ 1872 1880s ~ 1880s ~ 1893 1900 1900 ~ 1900 ~ 1900 ~ 1902 ~ 1902 1905 1905 1905 1908 1911 1911 1st World War 1917 ~ 1918 1918 ~ 1919 ~ 1920 1920 ~ 1921 1921 ~ 1922 1924 1929 1929 ~ 1929 ~ 1931 1931 1931 1934 1934-5 1936 1937 1933-38 1937-41 1938 ~ 1938 ~ 1940s ~ 2nd World War 1947 1947 1948 1948-51 1951 ~ 1950s 1950s 1952 1954 ~/~ 1967 ~ 1967 ~ 1967 1967 ~ 1968 ~ 1969 ~ 1972 ~ 1972 ~ 1972 ~ 1972 ~ 1972 ~ 1974 1974 1976-9 1977-9 1977-9 1980~ 1980~ 1981 1983 1983 ~ 1984 1988 1988 1988-93 ~/~ 1993 ~ 1993 ~ 1995 ~ 1995 1995 1997 ~ 1997 1997 ~ 1997 ~ 1997 ~ 1998 ~ 1998 ~ 1999 ~ 1999 ~ 1999 ~ 2000 ~ 2000 ~ 2000 ~ 2000 2000-1 2001 2002-4 2002 ~ 2003 ~ 2003 ~ 2003 ~ 2005 ~ 2005 ~ 2005-6 2005 ~ 2005 ~ 2005 ~ 2005 ~ 2005 ~ 2005 ~ 2005 ~ 2005 ~ 2005 ~ 2005 ~ 2005 ~ 2005 ~ 2005 ~ 2005 ~ 2005 ~ 2005 ~ 2005 ~ 2005 ~ 2005 ~ 2006/7 2007 2007

Combination Printing

The first combination printing?

Probably invented in Scotland in the early 1850s, combination printing was the layering of separate images onto a single photographic print, through the means of careful masking and the making of successive exposures. Making early combination prints required days of work, quality equipment, and painstaking methods. It was first called "double printing", since only two negatives were used in the early years, usually to print in a well-exposed sky above a landscape.

return to index

Spirit Photography

The first spirit photographs?

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, in his comprehensive History of Spiritualism (1926), stated that the first deliberate attempts at spirit photography took place in Great Britain in the year 1851. This, however, is a fact that cannot now be confirmed by modern scholars. See Cheroux's The Perfect Medium (2005) for more discussion of this matter.

Early spirit photographs were created by means of double exposure, and possibly by simple combination printing. The oldest known surviving spirit photograph is from 1861.

Spiritualism itself is generally said to have been invented in 1848, when two little girls, the Fox sisters, claimed they heard the rapping of 'spirits' on a table.

return to index

Edgar Allen Poe

1850/6: The Works of Poe

The Works of the Late Edgar Allan Poe were published in the U.S. (1850 & 1856), although sadly edited by someone who sometimes freely rewrote and recombined the stories. Poe (1809-1849) had been known in his own lifetime — but only as a critic, not as a writer of fiction.

Poe's works, along with de Sade and the recovery of European folk/fairy tales, became the seeds of a sophisticated gothic imagination (there had been an unsophisticated pre-1848 literature of 'Penny Dreadfuls' and a brief British craze for horror stage shows) — which can be seen running through Stevenson's Hyde (1886), the 'L'Esprit Decadent' novels of the 1880s, James' The Turn of the Screw (1898), Ernst's collage novels, Lovecraft, Mervyn Peake, Borges, Ray Bradbury, Angela Carter, to Jan Svankmajer and beyond.

return to index

Oscar Gustave Rejlander

1857: "The Two Ways of Life".

Working in Wolverhampton, Oscar Rejlander took six weeks to create a seamless combination print from 32 negatives. Loosely based on a classical theme, there were two versions — both complex high Victorian tableaux. They depict the life-choices of a young man, Industry or Dissipation. It was first shown at the Manchester Art Treasures Exhibition of 1857, when many objected to the nudity. But Royal patronage followed, and Rejlander moved to London and made his name as "the father of art photography". His later The Bachelor's Dream (circa 1860) is an almost proto-surrealist staged picture.

Second alternate version of The Two Ways of Life

return to index

Henry Peach Robinson

1858: "Fading Away".

Robinson's famous combination print, "Fading away" (1858), pictured a young girl's death due to TB; a common occurrence that undoubtedly contributed to the Victorian cult of childhood. In 1859 he published a booklet, On printing photographic pictures from several negatives. A more detailed book followed in 1869, and then Picture Making by Photography (1884). He became an eloquent advocate for art photography, but Gernsheim (Creative Photography, 1962) shows he preferred the "scissors & paste-pot" rather than combination printing for most prints. Robinson helped found The Linked Ring.

Henry Peach Robinson, Fading Away

return to index

H.D Fredericks & Co.

1858-1889: collaged group portraits

Fredericks took Fox Talbot's process to the U.S. — from 1858 his New York studio specialised in collaged 'group portrait' cartes de visite, and trick images. Also in the U.S., William Notman composited groups (e.g.: "Skating Carnival" 1870).

H.D. Fredericks & Co.    H.D. Fredericks & Co.

H.D. Fredericks & Co.    H.D. Fredericks & Co.

return to index

Fantastic stereos

1860s onwards: stereo publishers.

The craze for stereos educated the visual imagination of the public to see pictures as made of elements held in "layered planes", although the plane-like nature of stage scenery would already have laid the groundwork for such an understanding of fantastic display.

"In the 1860s and subsequent decades publishers of binocular photographs, such as the London Stereoscope Co. and the American firm Underwood & Underwood, marketed an entire series of ethereal ghosts, angels and fairies for the amusement of the public." — from: The Perfect Medium, p.52.

London Stereoscopic Co, Haunted House, circa 1865

return to index


1865: Lewis Carroll publishes Alice.

Lewis Carroll, a photographer since 1856 and a good friend of Oscar Rejlander (see 1857), published his famous book Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. The book had a strong and continuing influence on the visual imagination. Carroll later made the influential "Xie" pictures, 1868-1879. Rediscovered and properly printed from the early 1970s, Carroll's main photographic/literary subject matter — girlhood and the sleeping/dream state — has become a common theme in contemporary work.

Lewis Carroll. Detail from St. George and the Dragon, with Xie Kitchen, 1875

return to index

Domestic collage

1860s & 70s: assemblage collages.

As fine engravings proliferated in affordable printed material, a practice of amateur collage grew up among affluent girls and women in the industrialising world. The products of this domestic craft — unusual and distorted images inside 'scrap' albums and on fire-screens filled with re-combined chromolithographs, engraved prints, and even original domestic photographs — would have been known only to their family and intimate social circle. But the practice nevertheless ran in parallel to the standard photography of the time, and it may have informed the craze for surreal combination printing in the 1880s.

return to index

Spirit levitation

1872: Frederick Hudson

Frederick Hudson's "Spirit Photograph" (1872) can be seen in the left picture below. This is the first known spirit photograph that shows the 'levitation' of a table. The levitation happens in the presence of a man and a 'spirit'. Levitation and flying is a theme that is dominant in contemporary nu-real photography; possibly this arises out of seeing a handful of key Lartigue photographs, but in most cases it probably also reflect an awareness of early spirit photography.

Frederick Hudson, Fluidic Effect, 1872

return to index

Combination printing

1880s: Fashionable fakes

New photographic processes meant that more people could make photographs. Amateurs experimented with 'amusing' techniques that were previously marvelled at. The approach became extremely fashionable, and combination portraiture amounted to 'a craze' — Francis Galton (1822-1911) being a leading British practitioner. Very few examples of this 'craze' survive from the 1880s, so it is difficult to know how 'fantastic' some of the pictures were or how long the craze really lasted.   The interest in photographic trickery had sufficient momentum, however, to push Woodbury's book Photographic Amusements (1896) through 11 editions from 1896 to 1937.

from Walter Woodbury, Photographic Amusements, images originally from La Nature

return to index

Fantastic fiction

1880s onwards: genres of combination and accumulation

Popular 'fantastic' genres emerged in literature: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's A Study in Scarlet (1887) (first Sherlock Holmes); Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jeckyll & Mr. Hyde (1888); H.G. Wells' The Time Machine (1895) Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897). A deep and enduring tradition of British children's fantasy literature began to take root, with George MacDonald's At the Back of the North Wind (1871) and Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass (1871). In France 'L'Esprit Decadent' produced a new macabre fiction. In the U.S., Poe was re-evaluated and re-published.

Tenniel's illustration for Through the Looking Glass Gustave Dore, standing in as a proxy for horror illustrations

return to index

La Nature

1893: Surreal photomontage

Surreal photomontages were published in the French La Nature (1893), republished in Scientific American, and then included in Woodbury (1896). In some of the images we can perhaps see the influence of Carroll's Alice. The pictures appear on pages 132-134 of LN and are headed "Recreations Photographiques" and credited to an "M. R. Riccart", now unknown. Old copies of La Nature would later provide a fertile mine of ideas for Max Ernst (see Krauss, The Optical Unconscious).

from La Nature, 1893

return to index

The new show windows

1900: Trimming the marvellous

In 1900 L. Frank Baum — the author of The Wizard of Oz (1900) — published the monumental and influential manual The Art of Decorating Dry Goods Windows (1900). Techniques of tableaux staging, mannikins and stage magic were combined to create the shop "illusion windows" (see: Colver 1988); eruptions of the marvellous and implicitly erotic into everyday life, overlaid with layers of mirrored reflections (analogous to photomontage) in the newly affordable plate glass. Baum was editor of the journal Show Windows from 1897-1902.

The surrealists were later fascinated by Atget's Paris show window photographs, although these do not convey the effect of being lit at night — in Berlin in the 1910s and 20s, the new show windows were lit up at night, and 'the uncanny mannikins' seen there, perhaps fed the early German cinema's fascination with 'living' automata and robots.

return to index

Trick photography

"Operated by any school boy or girl!" — Kodak marketing, 1901

Once cheap Brownie cameras started to get into the hands of intelligent young people after 1900, further layers of inventiveness emerged. This was aided by practical manuals of trick photography, such as Woodbury's Photographic Amusements (1896), Chaplot's La Photographie Recreative et Fantaisiste (1902), and Walter Eagleson's Trick Photography (1902).

Walter Eagleson's Trick Photography, 1902

return to index

The growing girl

'Blended' garden photography

A minor theme in the popular 'trick' home photography of the early 1900s appears to have been straight photography of girls appearing to blend with / emerge out of the foliage of a garden. This was possibly influenced by the children's fantasy literature of the period?

Growing girl, circa early 1990s.  Private collection.

return to index

Surreal seaside photography

A head, a hole, a 'trick' photo

From around 1900 until the early 1980s painted wooden boards were a common feature of seaside promenades and piers. A photograph of the board would be taken with a person's head in a hole, thus creating a 'trick' photograph. The paintings used were often somewhat fantastic in nature. Millions of people would have seen this simple method of using photography to create a fantastical picture.

Man with his head in a hole, riding a goose

return to index

The boy Lartigue

Jacques Henri Lartigue, 1902 ~

Jacques Henri Lartigue created some of his most important 'trick' flying / levitating pictures from 1902 to about 1906. These included: "Zissou as a ghost" (1902); "Cousin Bichonnade in flight" (1905); "Zissou's first attempts at flying" (1905); and "My Nanny" (1904). His work only became widely known and published from the late 1960s and early 1970s. With this theme, he appears to contribute one of the major themes to the contemporary nu-real — although he was himself influenced by spirit photography.

Lartigue worked in stereo, a process that views pictures as if made up of elements suspended in "layered planes"; perhaps a spur to the appreciation of photomontage.

Jacques Henri Lartigue, Cousin Bichonnade in flight, 1905

return to index

British postcards

Eccentric and mesmerist postcards

Popular photographic postcards circulated in Britain, showing fantastic scenes — such as the "If London were Venice" (circa 1902), part of a series.

If London were Venice, circa 1902

'Hypnotised and suspended' (c. 1901)...

Nita, the hypnotised and suspended lady, before 1902

return to index

German postcards

Fantasy head-paste photomontages

Popular German postcards used bizarre combinations such as those below, from 1902-05. Enlarged or swopped heads is an easy but effective technique; and are also seen in the films of Georges Melies.

German postcard, circa 1902.  From Ades

German postcard, circa 1905

return to index

German postcards

Propaganda postcards

Below is a pungent 1905 example of anti-British propaganda in a German postcard — a decade before John Heartfield 'invented' political photomontage in Germany.

German photographic postcard, 1905.  Collection of William Ouellette

return to index

French postcards

Political(?) photomontage postcards

'Out at last' is a circa-1905 photomontage postcard from France, which possibly had political meaning to people at the time.

return to index

American postcards

1908-1913: William H. Martin

'Fantastic farming' postcards circulate in the U.S.   William H. "Dad" Martin, having run a photography studio in Kansas since 1894, turns to making a series of humourously surreal photomontaged postcards showing farmers hunting giant rabbits and farmers taking huge potatoes or geese to market. These appear to have been first produced by him in 1908, and Martin continued making and selling them until about 1912 or 1913, when he sold his very profitable new business.

William H Martin, When we go after anything we get it. 1909

return to index

German erotic postcards

Gerlach & Martin Gerlach Jr., 1911

Below are two examples of the polished erotic photomontage postcards that were circulating in Germany before the First World War.

Can the Dada-ists, so attuned to the erotic and the scandalous, really have been unaware of polished work such as this, or the fantasy postcards they would have grown up with, when they variously claimed to have 'invented' photomontage?

Gerlach & Martin Gerlach Jr., Germany, 1911, Gelatin-silver print, 14 x 9 cm, Collection Peter Weiss    Gerlach & Martin Gerlach Jr., Germany, 1911, Gelatin-silver print, 14 x 9 cm, Collection Gérard Lévy

return to index

Futurist photodynamism

1911-13: Anton Giulio Bragaglia

Bragaglia created a ghostly — almost spirit photography -like — photography of movement and blurring that he terms "photodynamism". He writes: "A shout, a tragical pause, a gesture of terror, the entire scene, the complete external unfolding of the intimate drama, can be expressed in one single work." — "Fotodinamismo Futurista" (1913).

return to index

Fake fairies

1917-1920: the "Cottingley fairies"

Sisters Elsie Wright (aged 16) and Frances Griffiths (aged 10) created five photographs that purported to show the girls with fairies and a gnome. Amazingly, the photographs sparked decades of heated debate over their authenticity. It is likely that the photographs were created using painted cardboard cut-outs held up with tacks. Elsie (seen below) went on to work in a photography studio, creating composite pictures of fallen First World War British soldiers with their loved ones.

Elsie meets with a fairy

return to index

Dada photomontage

1916-1918: German dada 'invents' photomontage

The date of the 'invention' of photomontage is commonly claimed to have been in May 1916 in Germany, by George Grosz and John Heartfield; although their description of the event sounds more like a crude political collage of elements that happened to include some photographs from the German illustrated press.

Fellow dadaists Raoul Hausmann and Hannah Hoch made a slightly more convincing claim to have 'invented' photomontage in 1918, apparently having seen how ordinary people were sticking cut-out photos of the face of their loved-ones onto "a coloured lithograph of a grenadier in front of barracks".

return to index

German cinema

1918-1920: 'Combined' creatures

Cinema matured as an expressive medium during the First World War. German cinema created a new visual horror around the idea of 'artificial' or 'constructed' monsters, such as Der Golem (1914), the Homunculus series (1916~), Alraune (1918) and Der Golem (1920); and 'constructed' fantastic landscapes, such as in The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1919).

The Cabinet of Dr Caligari

return to index

Max Ernst's collages

Engraving composites, 1919-1924

Max Ernst discovered the process of surreal collage in 1919, using Victorian engravings (many originally made from photographs), ... "I was struck by the obsession which held under my gaze the pages of an illustrated catalogue ... It was enough at that time to embellish these catalogue pages, in painting or drawing, and thereby ... transformed into revealing dramas my most secret desires from what had been before only some banal pages of advertising." Ernst credited Max Klinger (1857-1920), a Symbolist painter, as the inspiration for his collages. Many of Ernst's collages might better be termed composites - because many strive for a seamless consistency.

Max Ernst, Here Everything is Still Floating, 1920

return to index

Magischer Realismus

Germany, 1920

From 1920 German painters added small dream-world and eerie fragments to a new realist art whose subject matter nevertheless remained firmly within the boundaries of the possible. Other traits of 'Magischer Realimus' were said to be "absence of timidity with regard to painting the unpleasant" ...and ... "a new spiritual relationship with the world of things" (Weiland Schmeid).

The German art critic Franz Roh first used the term 'Magischer Realimus' to describe the major "Die Neue Sachlichkeit" exhibition in June 1925. Roh would later publish a book of seventy avant-garde photographs, Foto-Auge (1929) — in which he would point to the photomontages included, and suggest photomontage as being "the ideal formal solution" to the deployment of the imagination in photography.

return to index

Magischer Realismus

Overlaps with surrealist painting

Salvador Dali, Rene Margritte and Paul Delvaux produced paintings with the photographic clarity of magic realism. Magritte was strongly influenced by photographers, notably Paul Nouge — Roegiers (2005) shows how... "his work often began in a viewfinder". Margritte had an exhibition of his own photographs in Munich in 1977.

Magritte, The Invention of Life, 1928

Interestingly, Dali told Hitchcock (for Spellbound, 1945) that dreams in film should be portrayed in a sharp focus, rather than by using the then-typical 'soft-focus and fog' approach.

return to index

Max Ernst's collages

Engraving composites, Paris 1921

The '1st Dada fair' was in 1920. Ernst's collages had their first exhibition, at the Galerie Au Sans Pareil in Paris (1921), under the auspices of Andre Breton. This period of his creative work culminated around 1924, when the surrealists issued the first Manifesto of Surrealism (1924).

Max Ernst, Untitled, 1920

Max Ernst, Switzerland, home of dada, 1922

Ernst's collage work particularly influenced artists such as Jindrich Styrsky (1899-1942) and Joseph Cornell (1903-1972).

return to index


Czechoslovakia, 1921-29

Originating in Prague in Oct 1920, Devetsil was the main avant-garde force there. Its photographers broke from pictorialism to create "mysterious, darkly erotic and haunting imagery ... breaking from themes of the past to visualize poetry" (Paris Voice review of 'Beaute Modern', Sept 1998). The Devetsil credo was: "Within a minimum of time, generate a maximum of speed, and taste all the beauty of the world" and also to free art of political ideology and to blend it with everyday life (Teige). It readily accepted collage. Eclectic and loosely organised, it influenced Czech Surrealism, Fotoline and the surrealist photomontagist Jindrich Styrsky, and the post-war photographs of Vilem Reichmann. After 1948 those who had led Devetsil, such as Karel Teige, were persecuted by the communists. Only after the overthrow of communism did Devetsil — and the real history of Czech photography and collage — become known in the West.

return to index

At the Bauhaus

Germany, 1922

Some photomontages were made at the Bauhaus — Laszlo Moholy-Nagy created around sixty photomontages from circa 1922 (interestingly, while sharing a studio with Kurt Schwitters). While Moholy-Nagy's photocollages show a Soviet Constructivist influence, many strive to appear seamless and internally coherent; and in some of the works he used fantastic composites to express his emotional inner life.

Laszlo Moholy-Nagy. The Broken Marriage. 1925

return to index

Surrealist photography

Manifesto of Surrealism, 1924

Surrealist photography officially began with the publication of Andre Breton's Manifesto of Surrealism (1924). Double exposure, solarisation, distortion, shadows, reflections, and extreme close-up all became common approaches. Such photographs, and 'found' photography, are widely used in surrealist publications.

While surrealism clearly shows how art can be made from a dark and anxious eroticism... "The surrealist photographers (Man Ray, Raoul Hausman, Bill Brandt, Brassai, etc.) rarely used photomontage." — from: Photographic Conditions of Surrealism (1984), and... "comparatively few surrealists persisted with photomontage after initial experiments" — from: Ades, Photomontage (1976). An interesting mid 1930s exception is Dora Maar.

Surrealist films, especially Un Chien Andalou (1928) and L'Age d'or (1930), may have influenced photomontage.

return to index

Belgian photomontage

Albert Valentin, 1929

While the major surrealist photographers "rarely used photomontage", a few Paris surrealists such as Georges Hugnet (1904-1974) did. It was the Belgian surrealists, such as Paul Joostens (1886-1960) and Albert Valentin (1908?-1968?), who more fully explored surrealist photomontage (as did those in Prague, and the Englishman Roland Penrose).

Albert Valentin, untitled?, published in Varietes, 1929    Paul Joostens, Le Reliquary Etrange, nd

This 'eyes' picture by Valentin was published in the avante-garde art magazine Varietes; Belgium, 1929.

return to index

Collage novels

Max Ernst, 1929-1934

Max Ernst published three surreal collage-novels, created from magazine and book engravings, some of which originated in photographs.

These books were La Femme 100 Tetes / (Woman of 100 Heads) (1929); Reve d'une Petite Fille qui voulut entrer au Carmel / (A Little Girl Dreams of Taking the Veil) (1930); and Une Semaine de Bonte / (A Week of Kindness) (1934).

Max Ernst, front illustration (skulls around honeypot with umbrella) from Reve d'une Petite Fille, 1930

In 1930, Aragon wrote an essay, for a retrospective show in Paris of collage works, in which he deplored the lack of critical interest in collage activity.

return to index

In advertising

Britain and Germany, post 1919

Simple photomontage, and graphic combinations of photographs, had begun to be used in the illustrated popular press of Britain and Germany. This was a trend which had been apparent from since before the First World War. Inevitably, the loss of men during the Great War, and later the Depression, caused publishers seek easier and cheaper sources of pictures than illustrators. Then the process started to gain mass acceptance — the professional journal The Printers Ink of Dec 1929, carried the four-page article "The Photomontage: A New Illustrative Technique" by Douglas Crawford McMurtrie. In 1929 some imaginative photomontage was commissioned by German pen&ink company Pelikan, from members of the Circle of New Advertising Designers. But most pre-war examples were bland and un-fantastic. Photomontage was only introduced into U.S. advertising in the early 1940s, by Paul Rand.

return to index

The Berlin retrospective

Berlin, 1931

A major exhibition was staged in Germany in 1931, showing the first retrospective of dada and surrealist photomontage — Fotomontage, at the Kunstgewerbemuseum, Berlin. Gustavovich Klucis published a major essay advocating photomontage as "A New Kind Of Agitational Art" (1931).

In the coming years the technique would become a polished political tool in the hands of John Heartfield (1891-1968). However right-wing nationalists also became adept at the technique, such as Jan Polinski in Poland. Futurists such as Renato Fazioli also used photmontage (see his "Le scale", 1932)

Constructivists also used the juxtaposition technique of photocollage for propaganda in Soviet Russia, tightly integrated with graphic design. Lissitzky and Rodchenko produced photocollage as early as 1922, and the approach became popular in Russia from 1924/5 until the 1930s.

return to index

Herbert Bayer

Berlin, 1931-32

Herbert Bayer studied at the Bauhaus from 1921 to 1928, and then worked in Berlin for his own design firm. From about 1931 Bayer started to make a series of well-known seamless photomontages such as: "Language of Letters" (1931); "Bone Breaker" (1931) "Self Portrait In A Mirror" (1932); and "The Lonely Metropolitan "(1932).

Herbert Bayer, The Lonely Metropolitan, 1932

On 6th-10th May 1933 the library of the Institut fur Sexualwissenschaft was burned on the Opernplatz in Berlin — the first of many Nazi book burnings.

return to index

Jindrich Styrsky

Edition 69

Max Ernst's Reve d'une Petite Fille (1930) has similarities to Carroll's Alice stories, but filtered through a Sadeian imagination. This collage-novel inspired Jindrich Styrsky's collage-illustrated Edition 69 journal (1931-40?) and its Czech translation of Justine. Privately printed and distributed to subscribers, Styrsky's publication was a distinctively Czech devetsil-surrealist investigation of erotic drives. Below is one of the collages from Styrsky's series "Emilie Comes to Me in a Dream", which accompanied his erotic dream-writing.

Styrsky, from series Emile Comes to Me in a Dream, Edition 69 Number 6

return to index

Doll photography

Die Puppe (The Doll), 1934

Bellmer published his book Die Puppe (The Doll) in 1934, followed by a Dec 1934 two-page article in the surrealist Minotaure, "Doll: Variations on the Montage of an Articulated Minor". The Doll was published in Paris in 1936. In 1936 in the U.S., Morton Bartlett began his staged tableaux with dolls (1936-1963). Such photography later influenced Bernard Faucon, Anthony Goicolea and the Chapman 'hybrids'. Themes from this uncanny erotic puppetry seem to influence some contemporary nu-real photographers.

Hans Bellmer, double-exposure self-portrait with doll, 1934

return to index

Two works by Magritte

La Gacheuse 1935, and L'Invention collective, 1934

Rene Magritte was influenced strongly influenced by photographers, notably Paul Nouge — Roegiers (2005) shows how... "his work often began in a viewfinder". In 1934 and 1935 Magritte produced two paintings that seem to be strongly influenced by photomontage.

La Gacheuse, 1935

L'Invention collective, 1934

return to index

Dora Maar

Le simulateur (1936)

Simple two-picture photomontage by Dora Marr (1907-1997). Upside-down photograph of a sewer interior, with the boy pasted onto it.


return to index

William Mortensen

L'Amour 1937

William Mortensen was inspired by lurid pulp magazine covers, Symbolist art, and an American interpretation of Freud. Mortensen was a strong advocate of manipulated photography in the USA during the 1930s, but despite his technical expertise he was later airbrushed from the history of photography when the first of the histories were published.

return to index

Herbert List

Fotografia Metafisica, 1933-38

Around 1933, the German gay photographer Herbert List began to experiment with a surrealist-influenced approach to photography that in 1936 — having reached the safety of London and then Greece — he would term fotografia metafisica. Using double-exposures and mirrors, curtains, masks, shadows, constructed scenes and sleeping boys, List explored the erotic dream state. Due to the invasion of Greece he was forced to return to Germany in 1941.

Herbert List, Licabettos, 1937    Herbert List, 1937

List, Baltic Boys, 1933    Herbert List, Josephinum, 1949

return to index

Pierre Boucher

DIY manuals, 1937-41

This image of a hand and lake was apparently created by Boucher especially for the book by Marcel Natkin, Fascinating Fakes in Photography (1939). The text notes the need for seamless lighting of all elements, and that two arms were stuck to the print to obtain the reflection. A little later, Crazy Camera: Secrets of Photomontage (1941) was published by Focal Press, London. In the U.S., a translation of Croy's German photomontage manual Hunderterlei Kotokniffe (1936) was published in 1937.

Pierre Boucher, circa 1939

return to index

Clarence John Laughlin

A surrealist in the U.S.

Clarence John Laughlin (1905-1985) began to photograph from 1930, in architectural and fashion photography. Fascinated by the Poe-esque grand ruined houses in the southern states, he used these for photographic constructions featuring costumed models. He published a book, Ghosts Along the Mississippi, in 1948 but his visionary work had almost no recognition during his lifetime.

Clarence John Laughlin, Elegy for Moss Land, 1940     Clarence John Laughlin, A Memory of Undine, 1945    

Clarence John Laughlin, The Eye That Never Sleeps, 1946     Clarence John Laughlin, 1941

return to index

Joseph Cornell

Soap Bubble Set onwards, 1936

In 1936 Joseph Cornell created the first of his interactive assemblage boxes. Until he began his boxes, Cornell's work had been in Max Ernst -inspired collages, as seen at Julien Levy's Surrealist group show (Jan 1932, New York) and at Barr's later group show (MoMA, 1936). Cornell did not cease to work in this manner once he started the boxes; as shown by the Cornell-edited "Americana Fantastica" edition of View magazine (2nd series, No.4, Jan 1943). Cornell also made own sensual 'cut-up' films (Rose Hobart, 1936), and later made poetic dreamlike films with Stan Brakhage.

Joseph Cornell, Medici Princess, c. 1948-1952.  One of three variants.

return to index

Edmund Teske

Composite prints, 1936-40 onwards

Edmund Teske (1911-1996) began art photography in 1936, and in the late 1930s taught at the New Bauhaus in Chicago with Moholy-Nagy. Living in Los Angeles, and operating on the fringes of the art world, his finely-printed homoerotic composite prints were despised by critics — but some were shown in L.A. in the 1950s. He appears to have stopped photographing in 1959/60 — instead reprinting earlier images and teaching at UCLA. Many of his homoerotic photographs were not seen until 2004.

Edmund Teske, Kenneth Anger 1952

return to index

Kenneth Anger

Fireworks (1947), Rabbit's Moon (1950), montage and queer pop art

Film-maker Kenneth Anger, who had been the subject of a photomontage portrait by Edmund Teske (see left), created the dreamlike Melies-inspired film Rabbit's Moon (1950). Later exploring the same areas of erotic film-collage as Joseph Cornell and Stan Brakhage, Anger's famous collage film Scorpio Rising (1964) segwayed with the queer invention of pop art and the re-invention of collage (see: Warhol, Hockney, Burroughs, even Robert Smithson's collages, et al).

Sill from Rabbit's Moon, 1950

return to index

Val Telburg

Born in Russia in 1910, Telberg (1910-1995, born Vladimir Telberg-von-Telheim) left for the U.S. in 1928. He worked as a maker of comic photographs at an amusement park. He was influenced by the surrealists when they arrived in New York at the start of the Second World War. Telberg began serious photography in 1945, using recombination and cinematic overlays, sometimes making large mural-sized prints. His photographs illustrated a 1958 U.S. re-issue of Anais Nin's slim dream-journal House of Incest (1936, 1947 in English) by Swallow Press.

Portrait of a Friend, 1950

return to index

Philippe Halsman

"Dali Atomicus", 1948

Dali and fashion/celebrity photographer Philippe Halsman collaborated to create several surreal photographs, notably "Dancer" (1947), "Dali Atomicus" (1948) and "In Mors Voluptate" (1951). The pictures, which might otherwise have been created by photomontage, were actually purely 'straight' shots. Their collaboration culminated in the photography book Dali's Mustache (1954). However, by that time surrealism was effectively silent, and Dali's name would become a 'dirty word' in art schools for nearly 50 years.

Phillipe Halsman, Dali Atomicus, 1948

return to index

Grete Stern

Suenos ('Dreams'), 1948-1951

The German emigre Grete Stern (1904-1999) lived and worked in Argentina from 1935, and from 1948 to 1951 published a series of 140 photomontages, now known as the Suenos ('Dreams') series. They illustrated a regular magazine column called "Psychoanalysis can help you", which appeared the Argentinian women's magazine Idilio. Largely ignored as an artist, her 140 works were first seen together at a 2003 gallery exhibition in Buenos Aires.

Grete Stern, Sin título, 1948

return to index

Harry Callahan

Pictures made in the early 1950s

Primarily a street and family photographer, Callahan also experimented with multiple exposures and playful trick photography, but produced only a few finished prints each year. Also a teacher, Callahan taught photography at the Institute of Design in Chicago (1946-) and the Rhode Island School of Design (-1977). The picture below, "Eleanor", is from 1951.

Harry Callahan. Eleanor, 1951

return to index

Toshiko Okanoue

Japan, 1950-1956

Using images cut from Vogue and Life magazines, fashion student Okanoue created surreal photomontages that "fit my dreams". Okanoue had a solo show in Japan in 1953, but ceased making pictures after 1956.

Toshiko Okanoue

return to index

Georges Hugnet

Hugnet continues creating photomontage, 1950s

The surrealist Georges Hugnet, expelled from the Surrealists by Breton in 1939 after joining in 1932, continued to make seamless erotic photomontage after the end of the Second World War.

Hugnet apparently maintained contact with Conroy Maddox in Birmingham, England.

Georges Hugnet     Georges Hugnet, En cours de route, 1947

See: Georges Hugnet: Collages (168 color and b&w illustrations), published in Paris in 2003.

return to index

Surrealism, a "spent force"

Cold post-war realities

As the English-speaking world came to terms with the end of the Second World War, from the early 1950s surrealism was widely seen as a "spent force" in art, and intellectually dead. This belief was heavily promoted by the French Communist Party.

British neo-romanticism in painting was also considered "spent". Pockets of surrealists, such as the Birmingham (England) surrealists and Birmingham's Conroy Maddox (1912-2005), strove to continue creating new work, including photocollage.

In 1956 there was a major Balthus exhibition at the MoMA in New York. The press refered to the paintings as "strange tableau" and the unfashionable words 'surreal' or 'surrealism' do not appear to have passed their lips.

The E.C. horror comics range was effectively banned in the U.S. in 1954.

return to index

The dying of the light

Classic fantasy fiction

A series of powerful 'cultural depth-charges' were dropped into the darkness of the 1950s and early 60s — fantastic fiction that 'burned on a very long fuse', but which would ultimately explode in the minds of the generation of 1967.  The first three books of T.H. White's The Once & Future King were republished after the war. Mervyn Peake's illustrated The Hunting of the Snark (1941) was followed by his Titus Groan (1946) Gormenghast (1950), introducing post-war teenagers to a grotesque and gothic imagination of a high order. Tolkien's Lord of The Rings trilogy had been published by 1954, but had an indifferent reception. Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine (1957) and Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962) were potent American explorations of fantastic childhood dreams and nightmares respectively. The first English translation of Borges appeared in 1961, Ficciones.

return to index

Trip the light fantastic

A resurgence of interest in fantasy and the surreal, 1967 to 1979

A new worldwide youth subculture started to take an avid interest in fantasy literature, fairy-tales, gothic horror, science-fiction, and surreal/visionary art. During the early 1970s there were new scholarly publications on dada and surrealism, fantasy illustrators, the Symbolists, and the Pre-Raphaelites. Nabokov published Ada or Ardor (1969).

The West Coast surrealist movement began in the U.S. in 1965 following the 1964 MoMA show, with photomontage by Gary Lee Nova and Bill Bissett, and Limbo magazine from 1964. (In 1978, the West Coast Surrealists were invited to Surrealism Unlimited, an exhibition organized in London by Conroy Maddox. By 1985 the West Coast had produced Ernst-like collagists such as Debra Taub, Hal Rammel, Patrick Turner, Vivian Torrence, and Freddie Baer.)

return to index

Photomontage rediscovered

Cut outs and cut-ups

The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper album (1967) featured on the front cover the "People We Like" photomontage by Peter Blake, bringing photomontage to millions.

Terry Gilliam's surreal cut-out animations appeared on British TV from 1967-1974, most famously in Monty Python, and these frequently used Victorian and Edwardian photography and engravings.

The new and camp Pop Art revived the art of the collage and photomontage — although in its garishness it might be seen to feed more into the later manipulated photography of Gilbert & George and Pierre et Gilles, rather than into nu-real.

Peter Blake, People We Like, 1967     Terry Gilliam, from Monthy Python's Flying Circus

return to index

Alice in Wonderland

Jonathan Miller's Alice in Wonderland (1966)

This b&w film, produced and directed by Miller, was broadcast in the late evening (because "surreal and disconcerting", etc.) on British television on 28th Dec 1966, and repeated in 1967.

Still from Jonathan Miller's Alice in Wonderland

Still from Jonathan Miller's Alice in Wonderland

return to index

Jerry Uelsmann

Solo show at MoMA, 1967

Starting to photograph around 1953 and influenced by Minor White, Uelsmann created "multiple printing" work in the darkroom from 1965. In 1967 Szarkowski gave him a one-man show at MoMA. In 1973 an issue of Aperture was devoted to his work, accompanying a one-man show at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Uelsmann's visionary photomontages became much admired. Although, perhaps due to his advanced darkroom technique, it was not until Photoshop 3.0 — 20 years later — that most admirers could imagine that they might also create such pictures.

Jerry Uelsmann, Untitled, 1969 Jerry Uelsmann, Detail, cropped

return to index

Duane Michals

'Sequences', late 1960s onwards

In a fresh photographic sequencing, such as Paradise Regained (1968), The Fallen Angel (1968), The Human Condition (1969), and The Bogeyman (1973), Michals (1932-) pictured fantastic dreams and nightmares.

Duane Michals, six image series called The Bogeyman, 1973

Interestingly this narrative storytelling form recalled a form of popular culture — the comic strip — which had been one of the few easily-available sources of 'the visual fantastic' during the 1950s and 1960s. The form had also been used by Magritte (Man with a Newspaper, 1928). Michals' early photographic sequences were published in book form as Sequences in 1970.

return to index

Arthur Tress

Dream Collector 1969-1972, and onwards

New York photographer Arthur Tress (1940-) began his Dream Collector series in 1969, creating fantastic images from children's memories of their dreams. His later work continued to explore this area.

Arthur Tress, Hand on Train, 1971     Arthur Tress, Girl wih Eagle, 1973

Arthur Tress, Bride and Groom, New York, 1970

return to index

Misha Gordin

Shadows Of The Dream, 1972 ~

Misha Gordin (1946-) created a darkroom combination printing method to construct his images or enhance his darkly fantastic staged images. At first working in Latvia under a totalitarian communism that he despised and refused to collaborate with, his new work (1972 onwards) was not understood or approved of — but in 1974 he escaped to freedom in the U.S.

Misha Gorin, from Shadows Of The Dream series, 1972-83

return to index

Mari Mahr

Mari Mahr, mid 1970s onwards

Living in London after her family escaped from Budapest in 1972, Mahr seems to have begun making photomontages from the the mid 1970s onward (?). Her work contains themes of personal childhood identity and loss, and her personal experience of anti-semitism in communist Hungary.

Mari Mahr, from Presents from Susanna series

return to index

From the cellars of communism

Jan Saudek, mid 1970s onwards

Living in communist Prague after having survived the concentration camps, Saudek worked in a clandestine manner in a cellar to avoid the attentions of the secret police. His pictures used implicitly political symbols of corruption and innocence. From the late 1970s he was widely seen by the West's new university-trained photographers. His work is a constructed portrayal of painterly dream worlds in tableaux form, often inhabited by nude or semi-nude figures surrounded by bare plaster walls or painted backdrops, and often re-using identical elements.

Jan Saudek, Catching The Breeze, 1983     Jan Saudek, A Young Girl, Karolina, 1975

return to index

Opening the archives

Early British photography re-discovered, early 1970s onwards

From around 1972, a long scholarly effort began to recover and properly publish early photography. In Britain, this was only able to succeed due to the opening up of major archives such as the Royal Photographic Society from the early 1970s, and access to the 300,000 photographs at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London from the mid 1970s. Much of this scholarship (Ovenden, Harker, Haworth-Booth, et al) was published in book form, which became an increasingly viable form of dissemination of photographs from the early 1970s onwards. The pictures, often stripped of much original context, could look strange and other-worldly.

From this eventually came a renewed interest in antique photographic processes, setting the stage for their contemporary application. See the book Photography's Antiquarian Avant-Garde: The New Wave in Old Processes (2002).

return to index

Rene Groebli

Switzerland, early 1970s

Rene Groebli (1927-) created a series of about twelve dream photomontage pictures that were published in the book Dreams (n.d.).

Rene Groebli, From Dreams series, circa 1975

return to index

Ralph Eugene Meatyard

The Family Album of Lucybelle Crater & Aperture monograph, 1974

'Discovered' by Jonathan Williams, Stan Brakhage and Guy Davenport in 1965, Meatyard died in 1972. Although there had been a collection in book form in 1970, his uncanny and grotesque photography came to wide attention with his book The Family Album of Lucybelle Crater (1974), and an Aperture double-issue/book of his pictures (1974).

Ralph Eugene Meatyard, 	Untitled, 1960

return to index

Francois Caillon

France, 1974/5

Francois Caillon (1954-) created dream-scene photomontages in the mid 1970s, published in the French Contrejour magazine. The works go far beyond the cliched approach to making 'ersatz-surreal arty nude pictures' that became tediously common during the 1970s.

Francois Caillon, n.d.

+ Angela Carter published her translation of The Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault (1977), and her book of dark fairy stories The Bloody Chamber (1979).

return to index

Fantastic photography

Exhibitions and books, 1976-1979

Two touring exhibitions were curated by the Canon Photo Gallery in Amsterdam — Fantastic Photography in the U.S.A (1976) and Fantastic Photography in Europe (1976). These substantial shows appear to have toured throughout Europe, and the 80-page catalogue for Fantastic Photography in Europe sold out three editions. Following this success, 1979 saw the publication of a 150-page book by Attilio Colombo titled Fantastic Photographs"The first book of its kind in the field of photography, this startling collection of work by an international group of young photographers probes the subliminal recesses of the mind to create a new visual reality"

Photography critic A.D. Coleman published the 208-page The Grotesque in Photography: A First Collection of Photographers Whose Fantastic Visions of Life Are as Revolutionary as Those of Impressionists (1977).

return to index

Fantastic painting, book illustration, and fiction

Fantasy resurgent, 1977-1979

Between 1979 and 1979 key books on painting and illustration appeared: Fantastic Painters (1977); The Fantastic Art of Vienna (1978); Fantastic Illustration and Design in Britain, 1850-1930 (1979). The 'First International Conference on the Fantastic' was held in 1980. The 288-page Dictionary of Fantastic Art was published in 1981.

From 1979 onwards, some book-length surveys of erotic art start to include small amounts of homoerotic art, previously omitted.

The French Metal Hurlant magazine was published in English from 1977, and became widely available — providing abundant stimulus to young fantasy artists. 98% of fantasy art produced thereafter would be deeply cliched and shallow, but artists such as Zdzislaw Beksinski and H.R. Giger would show what it was still capable of.

return to index

The new gay tableaux

New photographic approaches, 1977-1979

From about 1977/8, major gay artists such as Gilbert & George (UK) and Pierre et Gilles (France) discovered new hand-painted approaches to trangressive tableaux photography.


In 1979 Derek Jarman released the feature-film The Tempest, a gothic work whose ending nevertheless borrows from the camp tableaux photography of Pierre et Gilles. Jarman went on to play a major role in the establishment of that most queer and often fantastic experimental medium, the pop video. The rediscovery of Eisenstein (a gay man, who invented a new cinematic language of fast montage) in France in the 1970s may also have influenced the pop video.

return to index

Ruth Thorne-Thompson

early 1980s onwards?

Ruth Thorne-Thompson made small pinhole dream-pictures of constructed worlds, often with specific reference in their toning to 19th century photography. One of her pictures from 1983, seen below, is "Man Levitating".

Man Levitating, early 1980s

Staged photography: From around 1980, until the fall of the Berlin Wall, there was a wave of 'staged' (often dream-like/absurdist) photography made (although not always widely seen) across Eastern Europe. A more leaden and ideology-freighted staged photography was explored in Western Europe & the U.S. during the 1980s. During the late 1980s and 90s fashion photography began to make inventive staged photography, on large budgets.

return to index

The political 1980s

Photomontage in the UK

Following Linder's photomontage for the Buzzcocks (Orgasm Addict, 1977) and others, there was a short period when British political photomontage was an active form, in the hands of Peter Kennard and the crudely grotesque 'photocopied posters' artists associated with Class War and the Anticopyright Network. Although, for the most part, the range of output was known only to anarchists and anti-nuclear campaigners until the works were collected in book form: Flyposter Frenzy, 1992; and Kennard's Images for the End of the Century, 1990.

    Peter Kennard, Smashed, 1978

return to index

Joel-Peter Witkin

Grotesque tableaux, 1980-82 ~

Witkin (1939-) had his first show, in Paris in 1981. Like Saudek, Faucon and Helnwein, Witkin pointed the way back to stage-like tableaux as the most apt mode for a pre- Photoshop fantastic, and echoed Saudek's use of antique techniques to aestheticise the grotesque and transgressive.

Joel-Peter Witkin, Led and The Swan

Joel-Peter Witkin, Bee Boy or L'enfant Abeille, New Mexico, 1981

return to index

Sarah Moon

Le Petit Chaperon Rouge, 1983

Fashion photographer Sarah Moon's Le Petit Chaperon Rouge (1983) was published in Paris, using fantastic photography by Moon to illustrate the classic dark fairy story by Perrault.

Sarah Moon, photograph for Le Petit Chaperon Rouge, 1983

Sarah Moon, photograph for Le Petit Chaperon Rouge, 1983

return to index

Jan Svankmajer

The films of Jan Svankmajer

Svankmajer (1934-) has been making short films since the mid 1960s, and been a member of the Prague Surrealist Group since 1969. In 1972 the communist regime effectively banned him from making films. Yet he managed to make adaptations of Carroll's Jabberwocky (1971), and Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher (1980), among others. Many of his films were banned. Jan Udhe (2005) wrote... "The West ... appeared to be quite oblivious to his existence" until the early 1980s. Channel 4 broadcast his films on British TV, and a major documentary about his work (1983). In 1988 he produced his first feature-film, Carroll's Alice, with funding from Channel 4.

Still from Alice, 1988

return to index

Angela Carter

The Company of Wolves (1984)

British fantasy author Angela Carter's screenplay for The Company of Wolves (1984, Dir. Neil Jordan) — based on Carter's book of dark fairy stories The Bloody Chamber (1979), and visually influenced by Carter's viewing of Jaromil Jires's Czech surreal/symbolist feature-film Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (1970) and the Channel 4 showings of Svankmajer's films — resulted in a widely-seen feature-film that deployed a deep symbolism within a loosely-plotted fantasy that drifts between dream and realism.

still from The Company of Wolves

+ From 1985 Francesca Woodman's photography becomes known in the U.S.

return to index

The poetic vision

Recovery/translation, 1988-1990

U.S. publishers City Lights and Black Swan reprinted, translated, and published new anthologies of surreal texts and poetry, easily available by mail-order from the late 80s. Many were illustrated by Ernst-like collage by U.S. surrealists Debra Taub, Hal Rammel, Patrick Turner, and Freddie Baer.

In the late 1980s / early 90s, the U.S. alternative zine index Factsheet Five became a pre-web hub for access to strange zines and small presses. FF's covers featured the collages of Freddie Baer; collected in book form by AK Press in 1991.

Good English translations of major surreal poets became easily available from the late 1980s, such as Federico Garcia Lorca's Poet in New York (1988), and Lorca's Collected Poems (1988). A collection of poetry by Odysseus Elytis was re-issued as a popular paperback; The Sovereign Sun (1990).

return to index

Lost paths recovered

Exhibitions and books, 1989

Following the 2nd revised edition of Dawn Ades's Photomontage (1986), a deeper literature began to emerge on the history of propagandist and art photomontage.

Scholarship began to recover a coherent narrative of late romantic art in Britain. Two books on the British neo-romantics led to the major exhibition and book The Last Romantics: Romantic Tradition in British Art (1989). In the same year there was a major exhibition and book, The Surrealist Spirit in Britain (1989).

Cheap printing in Eastern Europe meant that increasingly heavyweight full-colour books were landing on coffee tables from 1990 onwards. These include the 500-page Lost Paradise: Symbolist Europe (1995), providing a sumptuous colour tour of European symbolist art; and the exhaustive 540-page Max Ernst Collages: The Invention of the Surrealist Universe (1992).

return to index

A generation lost

Gay men's deaths from HIV/AIDS

The creative arts were decimated by the loss of a generation of creative talent, due to HIV/AIDS. The peak years of death were 1988-1993. The disease probably killed around 500,000 gay men in the U.S. alone.

Collage had a small role to play in coping and protest: in the sombre angry newspaper-cutting paintings and collage-assemblages made by Derek Jarman in his last years at Prospect Cottage; in the Ernst-style collages and cut-out mask photography of David Wojnarowicz; in the photo-constructions of Gilbert & George; in the ever-growing patchwork memorial quilts.

David Wojnarowicz, untitled, 1990

return to index

Constructed realms

Computer games, 1993 onwards

With Myst (1993) for the Mac, a potent new avenue for the immersive expression of fantasy and uncanny symbolism emerged, influencing the visual imagination of a new generation of young creatives. American McGee's dark and gothic Alice in Wonderland (2000) was a particularly accomplished highpoint that still has a cult following.

Screenshot from McGee's Alice

In this regard, the work of Ray Caesar points to a future when 'photo-real' tableaux may be easily created in computer-game -like software rather than starting in a camera.

return to index

Photoshop with layers

Photoshop version 3.0, Nov 1994

A plug-in program for Photoshop, 'Specular Collage', had added a layers function to Photoshop since mid-1993. But the release of Photoshop 3.0, with its native ability to layer and blend different images, provided a polished tool to create seamless photocomposited images. Affordable flatbed scanners became available (plus the cheap RAM needed to handle large scans), meaning that artists could easily scan in found or public-domain material for collages.

Adobe <a href= Photoshop 3.0 with layers" />

return to index

Web browers "see" images

Netscape, 1995

At around the same time that Photoshop put the means of production into the hands of artists, the means of distribution of such images was also released — web browsers that could load images in web pages. However, dial-up access was still painfully slow and monitors were small and fuzzy.

As the cost of fast PCs and net access plummeted, the stage was set for a new worldwide web of artistic influence; a web that would link creatives who had never met one another, and which would also start to link deeply into searchable archives of images and books — and 'free' pirated software. However, the web increased pressure on creatives; we had to ask if we were making work good enough to be shown on a world stage.

It took until about 1999 for substantial gallery websites to become common. Photoblogging emerged from about 2001.

return to index

Dave McKean

Small Book of Black and White Lies, 1995

Well-known British comics artist Dave McKean published his Small Book of Black and White Lies (1995), containing twenty-six manipulated and photomontaged pictures.

Bird Watcher


return to index

Meghan Boody

Incident at the Reformatory, 1995

Meghan Boody created her Incident at the Reformatory (1995) series of iris prints.

return to index

Megapixel digital cameras


The first affordable 1.2-megapixel digital cameras arrived on the consumer market. Users who had a new PC were able to easily connect these via fast new USB ports (in new PCs from 1997).

Cheap digital cameras & scanners meant new industries could emerge — such as the simplistic photocollage involved in digital family 'scrapbooking', or the 'joke' face-morphing software.

More interestingly, a new fine art Photoshop-manipulated 'uncanny' portraiture can be traced from David Lee's Manimals series (1993) through to the portraits of Loretta Lux (2004).

David Lee     Loretta Lux

return to index

Interactive multimedia

Ceremony of Innocence; UK 1997

Ceremony of Innocence was Nick Bantock's interactive multimedia CD-ROM re-telling of his Griffin & Sabine series of books. The CD won around eight of the world's major digital media prizes. Like many other innovative CD-ROM Director-based works, the disc no longer runs on modern operating systems.

Nick Bantock, Ceremony of Innocence screenshot

The rich possibilities of this sort of fantastic interactive storytelling have been under-explored. The most interesting contemporary practitioner is Dreaming Methods.

return to index

Simen Johan

1997 onwards

Simen Johan created fabricated dream-nightmare scenarios enacted by his fictional Photoshop-built children, using between 50 to 100 different elements per picture. His first series, And Nothing Was to Be Trusted, was in black and white, after which he has worked in colour.

from the series And Nothing Was to Be Trusted, 1997     from the series Evidence of Things Unseen, 2001

from the series Breeding Ground

return to index

Robert ParkeHarrison

The Architect's Brother, 1997 onwards

Robert ParkeHarrison's photomontaged Earth Elegies and Promisedland series — which appeared in book form as The Architect's Brother in 2000 — used traditional darkroom photography, paper negatives and paint applied to the prints. ParkeHarrison now works with his wife Shana, and Photoshop has become part of their working method.

Robert ParkeHarrison, Suspension, 1998

return to index


Fantastic histories, 1997 onwards

Nicholas Miles Kahn and Richard Selesnick are a British/American artist pair who use props and costumes, the new panorama-stitching software, and Adobe Photoshop, to create cinematic psuedo-historical series of photographs. Their series include: The Circular River (1997); Scotlandfuturebog (2000); City of Salt (2001); The Apollo Prophecies (2004) and Eisbergfreistadt (2007).

Scotlandfuturebog, pfingsthlrad

Circular River, we record shamanic songs

Apollo Prophesies, liftoff

return to index

Maggie Taylor

1998 onwards

Maggie Taylor — wife of Jerry Uelsmann — started working with flatbed scanners and Adobe Photoshop in 1996, and from 1998 produced a significant body of photomontages. Adobe later published the book Maggie Taylor's Landscape of Dreams (2005), and Taylor is currently illustrating Carroll's Alice (2008).

Maggie Taylor,

Maggie Taylor, Moth Dancer, date unknown

return to index

Tom Chambers

1998 onwards

Tom Chambers has been creating surreal photomontages since 1998. He makes film images of elements, scans, and completes the picture in Photoshop.

Tom Chambers, Prom Gown #3, 2005

Tom Chambers, Fox or With One Eye Open, 2000

Tom Chambers, Summer Night Ride, 2000

return to index

Patrycja Orzechowska

1999 onwards

Well known in Poland, Patrycja Orzechowska (1974-) has created three series: neoSurrealistic Landscape (1999); Nos Duo (2004), and Phantoms (2003-4).

from unknown series

neoSurrealistic Landscape series, 1999

return to index

Klaus Elle

1999 onwards

Klaus Elle seems to have created spirit-photography -like images around 1999, possibly with the aid of Photoshop.

Krause Elle, Ghostly hands

return to index


Slumberland, 1999 onwards?

U.S. husband and wife team Louviere+Vanessa have worked together since 1998, creating the Slumberland series of dream-like images with constructed scenes and darkroom manipulation. In 2006 they first showed the Chloroform Series (example below).

Chlorofemina, Loup Garou, from the Chloroform Series, 2006

return to index

Dominic Rouse

2000 onwards

British artist Rouse began making photomontage around 2000, and was soon creating ever-more ambitious works, Rouse creates digital negatives that he then prints in the darkroom as traditional silver gelatin prints.

Dominic Rouse, Reasons for Attendance (after Philip Larkin), 2005/6

Dominic Rouse, The Cunning of Unreason, 2004/5

return to index

Alessandro Bavari

Sodom and Gomorrah , 2000 onwards

Italian Alessandro Bavari seems to have begun creating advanced photmontages, the aid of the aid of Photoshop, around 1995. His major body of work is the series Sodom and Gomorrah (2000-2003).



return to index

Andrew Mamo

Are We Not Men? series, 2000

In Mamo's early work we see key nu-real themes; altered monstrous heads, levitating, and emulated antique processes.

Andrew Mamo, Are We Not Men? IX

Andrew Mamo, Black Front, 2003

return to index

Johann Fournier

La Porte Aquatique, 2000

Johann Fournier's La Porte Aquatique series seems to have been made in 2000.

return to index

Viktor Koen

Makers of Tlon series, 2000; and Transmigrations series, 2001

Viktor Koen's Makers of Tlon was based on the the story "Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius" (1940; 1961 in English) by Jorge Luis Borges.

Makers of Tlon, Poet   Makers of Tlon, Metaphysisian

Transmigrations, Deathwatch

return to index

A Vindication of Tlon

Photography and the Fantastic, 2001

Photography and the Fantastic was a week-long international exhibition, with workshops and a 148-page Greek/English book — A Vindication of Tlon: Photography and the Fantastic — at the Thessaloniki Museum of Photography in Greece in 2001.

The introductory essay to the accompanying book, by curator John Stathatos, can be read online.

Vindication of Tlon, cover

As the dust settled following the collapse of communism, the West began to learn of dissident photographers and surreal artists (e.g.: Polish theatre posters).

return to index

Photoshop compositing textbooks

Photoshop Masking & Compositing, 2002

The first of the serious textbooks on how to use Adobe Photoshop for advanced photomontage was published, Photoshop Masking & Compositing (2002), replacing the out-of-date and basic Photoshop Collage (1997). The 2002 book featured many images by Maggie Taylor and two by Jerry Uelsmann.

2004 saw the book Adobe Master Class: Photoshop Compositing with John Lund (2004) and the first of two Surreal Digital Photography (2004) tutorial-guides.

Adobe Master Class: <a href= Photoshop Compositing with John Lund" />

return to index

Andrew Polushkin

Sweet Home Clinic, 2002 onwards

Working in St. Petersburg, Russia, Polushkin (1972-) seems to have begun fantastic photomontage with his uncompromising Sweet Home Clinic series (2002-2006). Self trained, he uses Photoshop and Painter.

Andrew Polushkin, part of Sweet Home Clinic series, 2002-2006   Andrew Polushkin, part of Sweet Home Clinic series, 2002-2006

Andrew Polushkin, part of Sweet Home Clinic series, 2002-2006   Andrew Polushkin, 2003 (detail, cropped)

return to index

Mat Collishaw

Fairy series, circa 2003

Mat Collishaw, formerly a Britart artist, produced his Sugar and Spice and Fairy Stories series of photographs around 2003. They appear to be produced by a combination of staging and Photoshop.

Mat Collishaw, Fairy Story 1, 2003

Mat Collishaw, Fairy Story 3, 2003

Schilte & Portielje

Beyond Reality series, circa 2003

Schilte & Portielje are a Dutch duo, who have shown in numerous galleries and museums, and who published a 90-page hardcover book Photo Works Beyond Reality (Eigen Beheer) in 2003.


Micheal Harp

Warped Victorians, 2003 onwards

Micheal Harp uses public domain photographs from the Victorian and Edwardian eras, transforming them in Photoshop into comical/macabre figures from a Poe-esque and Lovecraft-ian parallel universe.

Micheal Harp, Polyphemus, 2004

return to index

Fredrik Odman

Composed Animals, after 2005?

Composed Animals is a small series of fictional animals, created by Danish photographer Fredrik Odman. Probably created after 2005(?).

return to index

Charlotte Corey

The Visitors, after 2005?

The Visitors is a series of 12 recombinations of Victorian carte-de-visites with Victorian photographs of stuffed animals, created by British photographer Charlotte Corey. Probably created after 2005(?), and published in book form by Dewi Lewis in 2007.

Charlotte Corey, Tiger Tsar

return to index

Oscar Guzman

The City of Galvez, 2005/6

The City of Galvez is a 16-image photmontaged series that premiered on the ZoneZero photography website in early 2006. Obviously influenced by fantasy invented-worlds computer games such as Myst, Uru and Morrowind, Guzman's mythical city is perhaps also influenced by the cities found in fantastic fiction such as Calvino and Borges. His city is inhabited by bowler-hatted men in suits, which seems to be a nod toward the paintings of Magritte, and the look of the city itself a nod toward Gaudi.

Oscar Guzman, The City of Galvez, front page

return to index

Craig Parker

after 2005?

South African Craig Parker produced a 12-photo series circa 2005.

The Observatory

The Tower


return to index

Lars Henkel

after 2005?

German Lars Henkel has produced a large body of photomontaged work, and has also produced pop videos in the same style.

return to index

Mikko Rantanen

after 2005?

Mikko Rantanen is a Finnish D&AD-nominated artist and illustrator.

Mikko Rantanen, Artwork for Lailatay

Mikko Rantanen, Artwork for Lailatay

return to index

Chris Anthony

Victims and Avengers, 2005/6

Victims and Avengers is a 24-image series by Chris Anthony. Using panoramic cameras and Photoshop, he creates menacing interior tableaux.

return to index

Mick Ryan

Fables series, after 2005?

Ryan studied photography in Ireland. He now lives in Shanghai, China. His Fables series shows influences from Carroll's Xie series and surrealism.

Mick Ryan, from the Fables series

Mick Ryan, from the Fables series    Mick Ryan, from the Fables series

return to index

Joseph Mills

Loves of the Poets

Joseph Mills (1951-) apparently made his photomontages in the late 1980s; but has only recently published these as the photomontage collection Loves of the Poets (2005), followed by Anarch (2007).

Joseph Mills, The Piano Lesson (large frame partly cropped out) 1988

Joseph Mills, Chicken Woman (large frame partly cropped out) 1987

return to index

Bogdan Zwir

after 2005?

Zwir is a Russian protographer. Her 'wrapped heads' pictures seem to be influenced by Magritte.



return to index

Darren Holmes

after 2005?

Holmes has only created a few pictures in the nu-real style, but his triptych is especially interesting.

return to index

Anke Merzbach

after 2005?

German photographer Merzbach seems to have started making seamless photomontage in 2005 or 2006.

Amelies Welt

Amelies Welt

return to index

Berenika Haladova

Personal work, after 2005?

Polish photographer Berenika Haladova creates personal, feminine, dreamlike pictures, often with very simple scenes and props.


return to index

Kamil Vojnar

Personal work, after 2005?

Czech photographer Kamil Vojnar is obviously aware of spirit photography, as evidenced by the levitating glass. Young angels and personal levitation are also much in evidence.


return to index

Darek Siatkowski

Naked Human series, after 2005?

Polish photographer Darek Siatkowski's Naked Human series uses complex double-exposures, projections and transparent acetates. His use of 'the room as frame' seems to be influenced by Saudek.


return to index

Roksana Mical (Wrenda)

Playround series, 2005? - ongoing

Polish photographer Mical's Playround series uses simple staging and occasional Photoshop.

Roksana Mical, Alice    Roksana Mical, Aweira

Roksana Mical, Marceli Szpak    Roksana Mical, Silent

return to index

Stephen Rothwell

Various series, 2005? - ongoing

British artist Stephen Rothwell produces highly polished and accomplished photomontage series, from 2005? onwards.

Stephen Rothwell    Stephen Rothwell

Stephen Rothwell

return to index

Cole Rise

Weight of Our Bodies, after 2005?

Young U.S. photographer Cole Rise, who posts on Flickr as 'antimethod' and runs, states in an interview that he takes his personal levitation/flying theme from skateboarding, fantasy computer-games and The Matrix — rather than from Lartigue and spirit photography.


return to index

Erwin Olaf

Various series, some composited

Although obviously much in demand by the couture fashion world, it seems impossible to classify Olaf as 'only a fashion photographer'. His work, although highly polished, has an authentic dark frisson that lasts beyond the surface impression. His 1996 Witkin-inspired Chessmen series (b&w, below), although staged, may well have influenced the nu-real artists such as Rouse and Bavari.

from the Royal Blood series    from the Royal Blood series

from the Chessmen series, 1996    from the Chessmen series, 1996

return to index

Tina Winkhaus

Hope series, some composited

In Winkhaus' series such as Hope, she created a dark narrative that departs from her lighter fashion-oriented work, and which references Symbolist painting.

Tina Winkhaus, from Hope    Tina Winkhaus, from Hope

Tina Winkhaus, from Hope

return to index

Cyril Helnwein

The Ethereal series

The son of the German master-painter and photographer Gottfried Helnwein, Cyril's 2005? series The Ethereal referenced spirit photography, gothic literature and antique processes.

Cyril Helnwein, Automatic Divorce, from The Ethereal series

return to index

Fashion photography

Fashion photography takes up nu-real, after 2005?

The mayflies of fashion photography start to more frequently take onboard some nu-real themes and approaches, and do them with all the panache, lighting, costumes and large budgets of couture fashion photography. Although highly polished, most attempts appear slapped together and lack depth; but in recent years Eugenio Recuenco is especially notable for his Madame Figaro and Dreams series (both 2006?).

Eugenio Recuenco, from Dreams series

In her last years of life (circa 2005) Annie Leibovitz created an elaborate tableaux / photomontaged set for Vogue illustrating The Wizard of Oz.

return to index

David Noonan

Silkscreen series, 2006/7

It seems that Noonan began to create his signature multiple-exposure silkscreen works in 2006.

Noonan 2007    Noonan 2007

Noonan 2006

return to index

Daniele Cascone

Houses series, 2007

Italian Daniele Cascone (1977-) is the editor of Brain Twisting and creates polished personal fantasy work that blends photography with illustration.

Daniele Cascone, House of the Sky, 2007     Daniele Cascone, House of Love, 2007

                              Daniele Cascone, Fly, 2006

return to index

Photoshop triumphant

Peter Plagens, 2007

Art critic Peter Plagens, in an article in Newsweek magazine, ponders what might have caused...

"photography's flight into fable" ... "a Photoshop fairy tale, containing only a tiny trace of a small fragment of reality."

return to index