Monday, January 31, 2011

Natural Splicing - John Stezaker - Photomontage - Coincidence? I think not.

A couple of months ago I started looking through used newspapers for naturally-occuring juxtapositions that appear when you take out one sheet and see what lines up at the centre. These are taken from last Saturday's (29-1-11) Guardian.

I think it's important to point out that the juxtapositions do occur along the spine of the newspaper - I prefer not to have to draw out any meanings or overtly create juxtaposition, but have the meaning be already present, with all being left to do is some simple cutting to isolate it. I mean, I could go through the newspaper and deliberately force arbitrary and unrelated images and captions together but what would be the point, other than as an exercise? Not that this is absolutely divorced from that practice - but I do find it more interesting and satisfying.

A funny thing happened as I was going through the review section of the paper - I came across this article about John Stezaker (slideshow). I first encountered his work about a week ago - it's surreal and funny and dark and probably obsessive given the amount of collecting and pairing he must do. Reading this article I was reminded of how common it is to come up with an idea or a project and discover that someone has already done something that's either the same or very close. Normally I'd be frustrated and give up the idea altogether, accepting straight away another's stake to it. But I liked coming across this, and in such an apt way. It got me thinking about how you can be influenced not necessarily by the originator of a certain style or idea, but by those who were themselves influenced by it. Until last week I had never seen or heard of John Stezaker, but I know I've seen work by people that has influenced, or have been influenced by, him - such as this piece by Herbert Bayer on the cover of 20th Century Photography, a book I bought a few years ago:

'Lonesome City Dweller' - Herbert Bayer, 1932

I became really familiar with this piece by Oscar Rejlander while working on an essay on early photography last year:

'The Two Ways of Life' - Oscar Rejlander, 1858

He stitched together thirty negatives in a darkroom to create a completely fictional scene.

Quite soon after reading the John Stezaker article I was looking up some pages I follow online and one of them - John Foster's 'Accidental Mysteries' - was this week mostly dedicated to photomontage and similar work:

Claire Pestaille

What I'm at with the newspapers is only slightly connected to most of these but I appreciate the similarities. I'd like to try out the same technique on my own photographs at some point.

While I'm at it, I'm reminded of Jimmy's recent photo-paintings:

Jimmy Monaghan - 'Eyes'

Jimmy Monaghan - 'Eyes'

Eyes are featuring prominently this evening... That John Stezaker article talked a lot about his use of eyes actually, also referencing the eyeball-slicing bit in UnChienAndalou.

I used to be perplexed by how often I would be struck by an idea only to discover it had already been done, now I'm beginning to see it as the natural route of distilled inspiration and don't worry so much about being the first to do something. Instead it's probably better to think about what I can bring to a technique and concentrate on what interests and drives me. Then I suppose I can at least be sure that I'm doing what I want, instead of trying to force originality on myself or what I do.