|dc.description.abstract||The term “photomontage” has three syntactic senses, as: (i) the phenomenon, (ii) the practice/process, (iii) the resulting individual image. All three of these meanings are examined in this thesis in relation to the context, construction and content of the pictorial supplements of selected representative New Zealand illustrated weekly newspapers from 1900 to 1930. A photomontage in the third sense is an image that has been constructed or assembled from multiple photographic sources, although it can equally accurately be applied to an image constructed from some combinations of photographic, typographic, drawn and found material. It is a term closely associated with the Berlin Dada; however, while they may have coined the term, they did not invent the genre or its techniques. As Hannah Hoch, one of the key proponents of this group, acknowledged, photomontage was already used “very modestly but quite consciously” in photoreportage (Lavin, Cut with the Kitchen Knife 219). This thesis demonstrates the frequency and prominence of photomontage in photoreportage in the New Zealand illustrated weekly press during the first three decades of the twentieth century.
While a single photograph is a picture on its own, skilful combinations of multiple photographs and other elements have the power to communicate ideas.1. Through a combination of convention, adaptation and innovation, photomontage provided visual tools for the construction and representation of ideas about New Zealand. Nostalgia for the recent pioneering past and the more distant imagined idyll of pre-colonial times led to the emergence of myths, which were frequently portrayed in photomontage. Photomontage strategies were also used to construct representations of key ideals of contemporary society, with its plans and hopes for a future of continued progress. At a time when New Zealand was itself a nation under construction, the illustrated weekly newspapers provided a forum for the visual construction of the country’s past, present and future, and the promotion of these conceptions of national identity to a large national and international audience.
Taking the view that construction is as important as content in the creation of meaning, a typology of key photomontage strategies is at the centre of this thesis. Following Giedeon’s pronouncement that for the historian “there are no banal things”, formulaic and repetitive formats are taken apart and analysed alongside complex and innovative examples (Giedion 3). The production of photomontages in the weekly newspapers provided an opportunity for design professionals to demonstrate and develop their abilities, and to communicate ideas. A few named individuals are presented, with a focus on their contribution to the visual culture of the time and on the degree of agency with which they operated. To a large extent, however, the published montages were the result of collected and anonymous fragments, and the contributions of anonymous photographers and designers are given equal consideration.
1 Paraphrasing Cesar Domela Nieuwenhuis (“Photomontage” 1931), a member of De Stijl and later of the Circle of New Advertising Designers.||en_NZ