The History and Development of Photomontage

The History and Development of Photomontage

The development and widespread of modern technology have had a positive impact on almost every sector and industry. Most of the processes that were hard to manage using traditional means are currently carried out with increased ease and convenience through the application of modern technology. This paper seeks to explore how the impact of advanced technology on the world of design. It will particularly focus on the relationship between modern technology and photography, discussing how its application has improved the photographic processes as compared to the earlier days during the industrial revolution. Some of the general and notable changes in the world of photography include the change in the traditional black and white negative-positive photographic processes. In the modern days, the quality of the images captured on camera has improved greatly and the clarity of images has made it easier to identify and capture even smaller details that could not be managed using the old photographic processes(Meggs, Philip & Alston, 2011). However, other than basic capturing of photographic images, one of the most profound developments in the world of photography that have been enhanced by technology include the development of photo editing processes that have improved the quality of images to even a higher level. Through technology, photomontage has made it easier to carry out such activities as marketing and has even promoted other essential industries such as film making industries.

To start with, photomontage refers to the process by which composite photographs are made through cutting, connecting, rearranging and or overlapping different photographs thereby coming with a new image (Agarwala et al., 2004). It is also commonly referred to as photoshopping in the modern world. The history of photomontage dates back to the earliest days of coinage by the Dadaists where it occurred by mixing different signifying modes such as printed and handwritten fragments off texts such as journals and newspapers. Some of the oldest recorded photomontages include ‘The Two Ways of Life’ which was a Victorian photomontage by Oscar Rejlander in 1857 which included a combination of printing(Meggs, Philip & Alston, 2011). The images of a photographer by the name Henry Peach Robinson followed shortly in 1858. Such were the images that set the challenge before most other photographers had learned the skill of combining different images to come up with a new composite image. Photomontage differs from collage in that as opposed to montage, collage comprises fragments of images that form sharp cut edges, while the component images in a montage are blended whereby the opacity of the photos is thinned at the periphery(Agarwala et al., 2004).

There have been extensive changes since the first introduction of photomontage. Among the main elements that have contributed to such changes include the rapid development in the technology that is used in making the images as well as the various ways of interpreting them. The first development stages of photomontage included the transition of color which made it possible for designers to blend different colors such as those in the background of images thereby creating an illusion that the images were captured in a similar venue(Agarwala et al., 2004). Thereafter, much energy was invested in the processes, thereby making it possible for designers to control the layers, opacity as well as the superposition of images. In the modern days, making photomontage has been made easier by the modern technology which has led to the development of application and software that break down the initial complex processes and tasks making the entire process easier and quicker.

The entire development in the world of photography and graphic design took place in different phases and different art styles and movements characterize it. The complexity of the images increased with time as enhanced by the gradual changes in technology. Digital photography as observed today involves the use of modern technology. The use of photographic film mainly characterized early photography. The implications of contemporary photography include the facts that one can now store, print, display and carry out other functions with their pictures. To capture the development of photography into the current highly improved processes, a number of art styles and movements will be explored, as well as some of the traditional designers who made a great impact in the world of art and photography in particular.


Cubism has been identified among the most fascinating forms of modern art movements. Cubism is closely related to Pablo Picasso, who also is one of the most famous and celebrated early artists. The movement made its debut in 1907 and it was pioneered by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. One of the significant characteristics off cubism includes the fragmentation of its subject matter which is often deconstructed in such a way that one can view it from a couple of angles at the same time(Meggs, Philip & Alston, 2011). The style rejected the traditional techniques that involved perspective, foreshortening, chiaroscuro and modeling and other theories that suggested that art should directly imitate nature. Unlike the earlier methods, cubism emphasized on the two-dimensional surface of the picture plane. The two pioneer artists simplified their previous color schemes to an almost monochromatic scale with the aim of ensuring that the viewer did not get distracted from realizing the main interest off the artist(Meggs, Philip & Alston, 2011). Such monochromatic schemes facilitated the presentation of multiple composite views of an object. Synthetic cubism, the second phase of the movement, emphasized on the combination of different forms in a picture, and the color was given a significant role in the works. The new visual language was later adopted and developed even further by other artists and painters including Albert Gleizes and Fernand Leger.


Futurism art and social movement found its origin in Italy in the early 20th century and unlike cubism, futurism emphasized violence, speed, youth, technology and such objects as cars and airplanes. Some of its key figures include such Italians as Tomasso Marinetti, Umberto Boccioni, among others(Henderson & Linda, 2011). The style focused and glorified modernity, and it further aimed at delivering Italy from its past. Cubism contributed greatly to the development of futurism. Some of the famous futurism works include Marinetti’s ‘Manifesto of Futurism’ and Russolo’s ‘The Art of Noises’ (Henderson & Linda, 2011). The artists focused on creating a unique dynamic vision of the future, and they incorporated different portrayals of urban landscapes and other technologies like cars and airplanes(Henderson & Linda, 2011). Futuristic ideas involved depiction of motion and different novel techniques were developed to express speed and motion. Such techniques included blurring and repetition, as well as the use of lines of force.


Dadaism is a modern art movement that was developed around WW1. Its primary focus was to ridicule the meaninglessness of the modern world and it influenced the development of other artistic movements as surrealism and pop art. Dadaists favored going against the norms of society. Among the significant followers of Dadaism includedHugo Ball, Antonin Artaud and Max Ernst (Hofmann, 2004). It associated with concepts of grotesque and as a word, Dadaism is nonsense (Meggs, Philip &Alston, 2011). The approaches of the Dadaists led to the development of controversies among the members of the society which in turn led to the crumbling of the movement.

Surrealism and expressionism

Surrealism and expressionism are also among the modernist artistic movements, that were initially involved in poetry and painting. Expressionists sought not to t depict objective reality but instead, they focused on expressing subjective emotions as well as responses that objects and arise within a person (Hobbs, 2005). On the other hand, surrealism was a cultural movement which was expressed through art and literature. Surrealism developed from Dadaism and it embraced the idea of unconscious desires and chaos. Surrealist artists used their art to show the working of human mind particularly in the contexts of sexuality and violence. One of the characteristics that are shared between these two artistic movements was that they both used distorted and exaggerated subjects(Hobbs, 2005). Both surrealists and expressionists expressed photomontage in the early days by making use of blurred coloring with the aim ensuring that their viewers least detected the differences between images. In addition, both artistic movements portrayed an unconscious characteristic of photomontage by making use of exaggerated subjects with the aim of controlling the mind of the viewer and making the viewers to develop a common interest with the artist.


In conclusion, technology has had a significant impact on the world of art. It is through the development of technology that photography was developed from simple forms of art such as painting and drawing. Some of the positive impacts that can be witnessed in the modern-day art and photography is that of photomontage which allows designers to composite different images and blends them to form one distinct image. Such development occurred in different distinct phases such as cubism, futurism, Dadaism, surrealism, expressionism and others. The development can be easily traced back as one phase of art preceded the other and influenced the development of the next movement and style, thereby exhibiting a clear transition between the styles. While the traditional styles of art showed some unconscious characteristics of photomontage, technology has made the process of montage in modern day photography a well-defined process and the entire processes that involve graphic design have been improved profoundly.

Works Cited

Agarwala, Aseem, et al. “Interactive digital photomontage.” ACM Transactions on Graphics (ToG). Vol. 23. No. 3. ACM, 2004.

Henderson, Linda Dalrymple. “Italian Futurism and “The Fourth Dimension”.” Art Journal 41.4 (2011): 317-323.

Hobbs, Robert C. “Early abstract expressionism and surrealism.” Art Journal 45.4 (2005): 299-302.

Hofmann, Irene E. “Documents of Dada and Surrealism: Dada and Surrealist journals in the Mary Reynolds collection.” Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies (2004): 131-197.

Meggs, Philip B., and Alston W. Purvis. Meggs’ history of graphic design. John Wiley & Sons, 2011.