As part of my growing interest in the manipulated image in general I visited the collection of John Heartfield photomontages held at the Tate Modern in London.
John Heartfield was one of the early masters of photomontage the process of manipulating, cutting and putting photographs together. Photomontage incorporates the German term ‘Monteur’ for mechanic giving the connotation of an industrialised production process far removed from the artisan’s studio.
A member of the Berlin Dada group Helmut Herzfeld changed his name to the more English sounding John Heartfield as a protest against the rise in wartime nationalism in Germany during WWI. From 1920 he joined the German Communist Party and focussed his work on producing satirical photomontage images for the communist weekly AIZ often targeting Nazism, Hitler himself and Capitalism.
Given the political climate of the day within Germany and Europe Heartfield’s work is not only brave and bold but intelligent, raw and uncompromising.
Martha Rosler As part of a continued study into the work of Martha Rosler I have also researched her work with the photomontage and specifically looked at her work House Beautiful: Bringing the War home which became the vehicle for her response to the intense and graphic media and TV coverage of the Vietnam War. Rosler saw how the constant news depiction of Vietnam had effectively brought the War into the living room lounges and therefore daily lives of the American public and the impact of this in terms of desensitisation and creating a spectacle of the violence of war.
An image which typifies Rosler’s style in this series is Cleaning the Drapes from the series House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home
This image can be seen at http://www.moma.org/collection/works/150123?locale=en
Her images juxtapose images taken from Life magazine of the perfect American lifestyle alongside the true horror and reality of war creating an extremely powerful body of work, revisited through the creation of a second series as Rosler’s protest against the Iraq War.
I found it difficult to download any decent images but you can see more of Rosler’s work at her own website at
http://www.martharosler.net – and and by visiting the Museum of Modern Art website at http://www.moma.org/collection/artists/6832
Power of Montage
My interest in photomontage lies in it’s ability to create a powerful sense of reality from what is clearly a manipulated environment, through piecing together part images taken from real life representation, previously known as the real photographic image. In other words, we know the final composition isn’t real but it could be and what does this newly created reality mean in relationship to our perceived reality.
The methodology of photomontage lends itself perfectly to thematic subjects which question, protest or subvert a convention through it’s ability to counter everyday surface image and reality.
John Heartfield Whoever reads bourgeois newspapers becomes deaf and blind (1930).
Taken from http://fineartkingston.co.uk/amyeckleben/2014/03/13/john-heartfield/ (accessed 07/03/16)
John Heartfield, Fritz Thyssen Pulls the Strings (1930)
More information can be found on Martha Rosler at http://www.martharosler.net and by visiting the Museum of Modern Art website at