Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Playful Record: Victorian Photo Collage

Recently, I was given the opportunity to design an event invitation for the Philadelphia on Stone book launch party on October 23 at The Library Company. As the party is an ode to the great lithography of the Victorian era, I played with styles and themes from the time period, namely Victorian photo-collage. 

Victorian photo-collage is a whimsical combination of photography, printmaking, and painting popular in the family scrapbooks of aristocratic Victorian women in the mid to late 19th century. One would find a cut-out of a portrait, a head or a whole body, placed in a painted scene or combined with lithographs. The scene could be somewhat realistic such as a drawing of a parlor or garden, but often the scenes achieved a surrealistic quality and portraits were placed in fantastical settings where heads did not match bodies, gravity was not a law of physics, and inanimate objects took on a life of their own. 

              (click to enlarge)

When putting together the invitation, I decided to take a more straightforward approach. I created a digital collage using the photographic heads of prolific lithographers and pen and ink drawings of their bodies, the library setting, and the lithograph press. I can see why the practice was so popular because once I combined the first photograph with my drawing I could not help but smile and laugh. In an era where a photograph could not capture a smile due to the long exposures needed, the whimsy of Victorian photo-collage brought a cheerful element of play that was lacking into family albums.

Concetta Barbera
Digitization Technician
You can see more of my work here: 

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