Photomontage and the Truth
Anyone in the general public that wishes to better understand the subject of photomontage and how it challenges the concept of truth..
From the inception of photography, photomontage has been practiced. It consists of making a single image out of several others by assembling them either in the darkroom or now, on the computer.
For example, in 1858, Henry Peach Robinson put together a montage called “Fading Away," in which each figure comes from a different photo, but the image shows a scene that seems to be the moment of an event.
Often photographers see or experience things that they were not necessarily able to capture at the moment, so they have to recreate them. For example, Robert Capa’s "Death of a Soldier" is believed to be staged by some specialists.
Often photomontages are not evident as such and when we discover them, we feel outraged, because we think that anything in a photo had to be in front of the camera, but, as we can see, not necessarily at the same time. Because photography is so closely connected to reality we feel the need to think that what we see is what really happened.
It is true that some photographers or media seek to alter information. We are living in a time of a crisis in credibility, but manipulating photographs is not at all new. It has taken place practically since the medium was invented. For example, in the times of the Soviet regime, whenever a member of the bureaucracy was cast out, they were deleted from official photos and a new person was added in the darkroom.
Perhaps what matters is not that the image is altered, as long as the public is informed, so they do not feel manipulated. It is necessary to discuss under what terms the manipulation of the image is valid.
In the book "Truths and Fictions" published by Aperture in 1985 Pedro Meyer combines direct images and photomontage. When manipulation is not evident in a photo, we can tell if it is a photomontage by checking the date when it was taken; if it has several dates it means it is a photomontage. Trusting photography depends on the viewer, every image is a subjective statement made by an individual with a particular vision. Whether this individual makes a photomontage or not, whether he or she lets people know about it or not, his or her image is simply a way of seeing, understanding, and sharing it with the world.
For more information, see Editorial #83, September 2007.
Profile or Panel Members:
Photographer who works constructed images.
Photo editor of a printed medium.
Visual arts teacher.
Note: The panel may consist of all of the above members or just some of them.
Computer and video projector, if necessary.