Composite images are creations that have been constructed from 2 or more other images. Digital has made generating these much simpler but they are certainly not new and have been used by people for many years.
The goal of the image maker can vary, with Picasso’s work he wanted to create a disjointed and surreal representation of us. The image looks as though it is a mismatch of multiple paintings but through this method he was trying to convey the complex layers of our personalities.
John Heartfied (Born Helmut Herzfield 1891) was a German artist who became a pioneer for the composite image through his anti-nazi campaign. Heartfied recognised the dangerous nature of Hitlers national socialist party and used his creations to produce insightful montages for magazine and book covers. His work carried such impact that he was forced to flee his homeland for his own safety where he continued to work in exile against Hitlers genocidal regime.
David Hockney is another artist that experimented heavily with photomontages. It was by chance that he stumbled across this style when taking poloroid images of his mother. He began to piece them together and as he did he found that the overall creation began to have a narrative about it that any singular image missed. Hockey went on to create many more composite style images and even stopped painting altogether to concentrate on this medium for a while.
Chris Dorley-Brown embarked on an ambitious project to photograph 2000 people from the town of Haverhill. Separating the population by gender and age he began the painstaking process of morphing the people together. Firstly he blended each of the groups to form one image then took those images and created two final images from each gender. Finally he morphed those two images to create the above. Chris wanted to explore portraits using contemporary technology to see how portraiture revealed things about ourselves in addition to creating a population snapshot of the people of the town at that time.
From here I wanted to explore this style further by creating my own images so I set about shooting some of the other students to create a blended image.
Using Photoshop I loaded each image and first processed them to even lighting and tones. I then created a new blank background and cut each person out morphing them together one at a time. I used layers and masks so I could carefully remove the aspects I wanted and create a seamless blend between all the areas. Finally I changed the image to black and white as this removed the problem with the skin colour contrasts and rendered a spotlight to correct any conflicting light sources issues.
My final outcome was not like any of the artists I mentioned. It was a portrait created using modern technology similar to Chris Dorley-Brown but his images were in colour and his morphing technique hid the use of multiple people better. The image is quite surreal and the multi-layered style also reflected picasso’s and Hockney’s methods but my image was blended together to look more like a typical portrait whilst theirs was meant to look disjointed. Ultimately as my first attempt at this style I was pleased with the outcome.
What I learned from this was that this was a powerful and alternative way of image expression and this alone gives me thought towards my project. I am looking for ways to portray the issues with country living during old age at the restrictions it brings. Through this my thoughts are generating new ways to present this. One of those idea would be to display and elderly person behind bars however I am neither inclined to go to a prison to photograph and elderly inmate nor would I wish to temporarily incarcerate some poor septuagenarian so I could take a photo. However using composite techniques I could blend an image of an old person and bars together.