One often thinks of photoshopping-style image manipulations and photographic trickery as something of the modern digital age. However, nineteenth and early twentieth photographers produced many wild and imaginative manipulated images that compete with anything made on today’s computers. This included collages, composite designs and artistic embellishments. This column is a look at some interesting and striking 1800s and early 1900s photographic techniques and designs.
The vignette was a common photographic technique used since the mid 1800s. It created an oval, fade-out-to-white design. The photographer used special filters so only the central image was fully exposed.
Photographers made often striking composite images, which incorporated many individual photos into one large design. There were different techniques to make composites. One was cutting and placing the individual photos to a board, then rephotographing that design. These designs often included text and artistic lines and graphics. In some photos, they laid feathers, string or ribbons and drew on the board to make really interesting final designs. You can sometimes even see that the individual photos were pinned to the backing!
Another common technique to make a composite image of many smaller individual photos was to expose cover the photographic paper as to develop just one image at a time. This took a professional’s skill.
Photographers were also able add their own ink, crayon and chalk embellishments to photos, physically cut and paste images, to make artistic designs. The sketching was usually done to the photo, then that photograph rephotographed for the final product. However, in some cases, chalk and crayon coloring was added to the final product, so the final photo can be ‘colorized.’
Many times, these wind up in major catalog auctions. You can also find a few on eBay.
The following is a look at some interesting and creative photos.