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Photomontage in Berlin, A critical study of the capitals inter-war artwork

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Photomontage in Berlin, A critical study of the capitals inter-war artwork In this essay I will aim to look at the history of photomontage and to also draw concise conclusions from the artwork produced specifically in inter-war Germany. I will debate the ideas of why it became so popular, in a country with political unrest. Also I will look at Photomontages strengths and weaknesses, both artistically and politically. To fully understand how Photomontage came about, we must first look at the Dada movement of the early 20th century. This movement was very much responsible for influencing not only Photomontage, but also Surrealism and Pop Art. It is therefore a key phase of the modernist movement. Indeed many Dadaists eventually became experts in the field of photomontage, so it seems only right to first analyse briefly this Forerunner. Dada began in the First World War in Switzerland, and quickly spread to most parts of Europe as an anti-art movement. Dada was considered by its creators as an anti-art movement, because Dada aimed to be a complete contradiction of Arts socio-political values. Dada in Berlin leaned towards the angrier and politically motivated approach to the arts. ...read more.


This suggests that photomontage has important values that make it very useful in persuading people. Dada was erratic, and difficult to comprehend. With Photomontage Heartfield was able to speak to the masses with his work. "His works were political propaganda aimed at a wide public, not private works of art"4 Additionally it seems that photorealism plays a key part in the use of photomontage and its power. Even though the photographs are stitched together they still give the message in a clear and more reliable way than cartoons or paintings. "Although clearly symbolic, their effect is all the more powerful because they are real objects"5 This realism is key to the success of photomontage. It helped firstly to bring modern art and political critique to the masses and secondly it posed real views in photographic form. They were more serious than cartoons. An artist that disobeys this idea is Hannah Hoch. While most of her work is abstract and very different to Heartfield, she still used her artwork for political reasons. Her own political beliefs of feminism come through in her work. An example would be Strong armed men (right). ...read more.


Photomontage did have its weaknesses, having associations in style to advertising means that photomontage political work can look too obtuse. That it is merely selling a simple idea to the masses, the masses could either take this idea or mock it. No one wants to be lectured to, so for a political montage to work it must leave enough for the viewer to assume, rather than forcing assumptions. Photomontage is now part of our culture, it is inescapable. Wherever we turn we see images that have been put together to create an idea. Occasionally in the style of Kruger it re-appears in art form. Yet these artworks still nod towards the ideas of mass culture, such as billboards, advertising and propaganda. Because of this it is questionable whether a political photomontage in modern times can still induce political thought. Also, with the advent of modern computing photomontages are harder to spot, and are associated with deceptive photographs. Photomontage has potential for political use, and this is clear from the work from post World War one Germany. The style of an artist such as Heartfield is faultless, the only weakness is that a single photograph can be more powerful than several montaged together. Documentary photography has superseded photomontage, and political photographs can be more persuasive because, they are pure realism. 6. ...read more.

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