What Is a Photo Collage?

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What Is a Photo Collage?
What Is a Photo Collage? (Image: fishercott911: flickr creative commons, qthomasbower: flickr creative commons)

A photo collage is a collection of pictures that are put together to make a single picture. The traditional art involved cutting pictures into pleasing shapes or trimming out specific images for placement, but digital photo manipulation opens many new possibilities, including blending images to make a seamlessly realistic picture.

The History of Collage

Collage is an art form that dates back to 200 B.C., when Japanese calligraphers created paper for their poetry by gluing together bits of paper and fabric. In medieval times, Artists began embellishing religious artworks with elegant fibers, gemstones, artifacts and bits of precious metal. By the nineteenth century, photos were the popular medium and collage was considered more of a craft than an art. Hans Christian Anderson adopted collage as an art form to illustrate his books in the late 19th century.

These roots laid the groundwork for the type of collages we see today, and in the 20th century, the art form was adopted by serious artists. Collage software gained popularity about 15 years ago.

Different Types of Collages

A traditional collage is assembled from photos cut and pasted onto a background and often embellished with things like ribbons or trinkets. Digital collages can be assembled by hand using any basic image program or automatically assembled by a collage program. One of the most interesting modern collage types involves using hundreds of tiny, uniformly shaped pictures arranged by color to create a single striking image when viewed from a distance.

Tiny pictures create one central image
Tiny pictures create one central image

Selecting Photos

To make a memorable collage, the pictures used should be related in some way and, taken together, tell a story. Family history collages are common, depicting the various stages of a family as the children grow. Anything memorable or special might be used as the subject of a collage. To be interesting, pictures should be chosen for maximum impact and the overall effect should reflect personality and evoke a mood.

Creating a Theme

The theme of a collage is personal and pays homage to something memorable. When considering the theme of a collage, think about the overall message. Picasso used a collage style to combine disparate elements in unusual combination. His art work "Still Life with Chair Caning" is an assemblage of many mediums forming a dimensional construct. Modern artist David Hockney has an entirely different approach to the same subject, using close-up pictures of the parts of a scene to make an overall image.

Scrapbooking

Scrapbooking is a wildly popular hobby that has its origins in collage. Using cutouts, stickers, words, borders, backgrounds and words to enhance their pages, scrapbookers create whole books of collages with each page containing a separate artistic expression designed to showcase their photos.

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