Exercise: Photomontage

Early examples of my photomontage work

I recall the first examples of photomontage by Soviet Constructivists that I came across and how their simplicity in form and colour as well as how powerful they were. As the messages contained within the posters were heralding a new dawn of hope for the future. Celebrating great technological and sociological events of the age, these new forms of graph design were as dynamic as they were groundbreaking.

Whilst in Western and Central Europe Photomontage was still very much on the fringes of the Avant-Garde, in the burgeoning Soviets Republics they were much in the mainstream. Not only because they challenged the old visual order, but also because the population’s literacy rates at the time were so low.

G. Klulsis (1895-1938).jpg

 Let‘s fulfill the plan of great work.  Moscow, Leningrad, 1930, G. Klulsis.

Lenin and electrification Shass-Kobelev 1925

Lenin and electrification, Shass-Kobelev, 1925


Tempo, Tempo, Marianne Brandt. Brandt of the Bauhaus School challenged perceptions around gender and work.

These early pioneers went on to ignite the imagination and creativity of so many photographers and artists, myself included. Such is the proliferation of photomontage that a simple Pinterest search delivers a mass of inspiration.

Pinterest Screen Shot

Pinterest Screen Shot

For this particular exercise, I chose to run with contemporary political themes, BREXIT, Gun Control and address the rise in Vegan populist news stories.


Brexit shambols

BREXIT Shambles. Ben Skipper 2019. Created using Photoshop and deliberately echoing the ransom note style.


This image gave the opportunity to mix self-taken imagery with some pre-existing and well-known imagery. I wanted to show what an absolute farce BREXIT had become, how the whole process has progressed from a political vanity project to a politically impassable mess.

The main background image was taken a few years ago of a Big Issue seller in Lincoln cleaning spoons he found. The cover of the magazine is as apt then as it is now. Over this, I laid an opaque image of the EU flag as part of the overall tableau.

The other image I took is of the gentleman sitting on the ‘S’, he was counting food coupons at the time. I isolated him from the background image below using the Magnetic Lasso tool and then creating a separate JPEG layer allowing me to position the man in a predominant position.



I then sourced a range of key political imagery that existing around BREXIT, including the now-infamous BREXIT bus and David Cameron, both isolated from their background image below using the Magnetic Lasso tool and then creating a separate JPEG layer.

Above these were positioned flying pigs, sourced from a PNG royalty-free library. I shall let their presence speak for itself. The now-iconic image of the European Research Group (ERG) with their heads in their hands has become synonymous with the issue being commented upon and work for all sides on a range of levels from hopelessness to frustration to apathy.

Aside from the obvious message, the BREXIT Shambles text was influenced by a range of sources, but the design was chosen for two distinct reasons. The first it echoed the atypical ransom note, a reference to how both sides of the BREXIT argument feel that their wishes are being held.

The second is the format in which letters are presented as being deliberately cut from Tabloid newspaper headlines and names, whose reportage has been less than accurate at times [sic].

In God We Trust

Give me Liberty

In God We Trust Ben Skipper 2019

This montage was very much an almost instantaneous reaction to recent events in the US. From the seemingly endless fatal incidents with firearms to the almost constant, inflammatory and mindless vitriol spouted by President Trump. His is a presidency that has become a mirror of contemporary America.

His almost fanatical support for the firearms lobby combined with anti-immigration policies have created a fractured America. A country once united by their shared belief in God (which one of the 5000 such deities I’m not sure) has become increasingly fragmented and isolationist.

I deliberately sought an image of enraged Trump, which seems to be his default oratory method, the gun acting as a microphone for his words of anger. Behind him two samples of how his presidency is viewed, one by the New York Post the other by the Sri Lankan Daily Mirror.

The image below the NY Post is of  Rioters in Washington, D.C., on his Inauguration Day, whilst below Sri Lankan Daily Mirror is a Border Camp image by Sergio Flores echoing Trump’s new form of Nationalism. Both images have been chosen to echo the headlines above and to show how fractures the Super Power has become.

His inactivity, or disinterest, in dealing with escalating domestic gun violence has made him something of a gun lobby darling with many seeing his stance as aiding the message of the NRA.

Finally, the combined background of the Stars and Stripes and the Dollar Bill are used to reflect Trump’s political character, one drive my intense nationalistic pride and  Avarice.

Fake News – Populism and Reality

Fake News

Fake News Stamp. Ben Skipper 2019

Cows of Death

Bovines of Death? Ben Skipper 2019

From Science Focus:

From Science Focus: How many cars equal the CO2 emissions of one plane?

‘A Boeing 747 uses 7840kg of aviation fuel for the take-off, climb and descent portions of the flight and these account for about 250km. For journeys longer than that, the plane will use 10.1kg for each additional kilometre under typical cruising conditions. So to fly from Heathrow to Edinburgh (530km) uses 10,668kg of fuel, which releases a little over 33 tonnes of CO2. 

‘Whereas a Ford Mondeo 1.8 TDCi emits 151g of CO2 per km and covers 650km to reach Edinburgh. That works out to be 98kg for a single passenger, compared to 79kg per person for the Jumbo, assuming it carries its full complement of 416 passengers. But you could drive 336 cars to Edinburgh for the same CO2 as one plane’. Carla Pearce

From Springer Link:

‘Methane (CH4) is one of the trace gases in the atmosphere that is considered to play a major role in what is called the “greenhouse effect.” There are six major sources of atmospheric methane: emission from anaerobic decomposition in (1) natural wetlands; (2) paddy rice fields; (3) emission from livestock production systems (including intrinsic fermentation and animal waste); (4) biomass burning (including forest fires, charcoal combustion, and firewood burning); (5) anaerobic decomposition of organic waste in landfills; and (6) fossil methane emission during the exploration and transport of fossil fuels. Obviously, human activities play a major role in increasing methane emissions from most of these sources. Especially the worldwide expansion of paddy rice cultivation, livestock production and fossil fuel exploration have increased the methane concentration in the atmosphere. Several data sets help estimate atmospheric methane concentration up to 160,000 years back. Major sources and sinks of present-day methane emission and their relative contribution to the global methane balance demonstrate great uncertainties in the identification and quantification of individual sources and sinks. Most recent methane projections of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for 2025 and 2100 are discussed and used to estimate the contribution of population growth to future methane emission. Finally the paper discusses options and restrictions of reducing anthropogenic methane emissions to the atmosphere’. Gerhard K. Heilig

From Time for Change Are cows the cause of global warming?:

‘The most important conclusion for ourselves is: Eat much less meat and dairy products. This is one of the most effective ways to reduce our personal carbon footprint and to generally reduce our personal negative impact on the environment’. 

Response to the above: ‘When managed intensively, the “standard grazing unit”, a 1000 pound cow can capture and store the equivalent of 3 tons of CO2 per year, three times as much as the equivalent methane she produces’.

From Webwise.ie:

According to Martina Chapman (Media Literacy Expert), there are three elements to fake news; ‘Mistrust, misinformation and manipulation’.

This image is a response to the recent, almost militant assault on farming, in particular, livestock husbandry, that has taken certain scientific facts and highlighted some whilst ignoring others.

It features a self-taken still of Cows, which has been layer with the background converted to Black and White, while the cows have been isolated with the Magnetic Lasso Too. They have retained their colour, so as to be a focal point, and been placed as a layer between the Fake News stamp, made in Photoshop, and the background.

The skull and crossbones, signifying death and the methane molecules rising from the herd tipping a wink to the spurious claims that cows are responsible, and by extension farming in general, is responsible for Global Warming, the Fake News element of the piece.

I deliberately kept the message and image as visually simple as possible allowing the elements to spur the viewer to consider the message much like the work of John Heartfield.


The act of photomontage is not only an opportunity to tell a story, make a statement or protest, it is also the opportunity to change the context of an image. To change a moment of innocent inactivity into something powerful is a great challenge and can be a creative panacea.

In approaching my three themes I have utilised not only photography but also graphic art and type, echoing the work of early Soviet Weimar practitioners and influences. By merging all three elements I feel I have been true to the exercise theme and also developed my own creativity. Image Reserach has been not only beneficial but great fun too.

In using the magnetic loop tool within Photoshop, as well as the utilising the program for font design has allowed me to be more comfortable and creative in my approach to the task.

Overall a great exercise in creativity, research and DTP use. Photomontage is a genre I have always been drawn to and I hope to continue to utilise it as a medium.

 Resources Used

 Let‘s fulfill the plan of great work.  Moscow, Leningrad 1930. G. Klulsis. Available at: https://www.etsy.com/listing/106251732/sovet-constructivist-posters-lets

Lenin and electrification Shass-Kobelev 1925. Available at: https://www.etsy.com/listing/153703442/soviet-poster-ussr-ussr-propaganda?item_group_id=PG_153703442

Tempo, Tempo, Marianne Brandt. Available at: https://www.icp.org/exhibitions/tempo-tempo-the-bauhaus-photomontages-of-marianne-brandt

Heads in hands. The Guardian available at:  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/sep/12/brexit-great-why-boris-johnson-jacob-rees-mogg-peter-bone-sad#img-1

Theresa May available at:  https://briefingsforbrexit.com/may-renegotiating-the-withdrawal-agreement/

Brexit Bus available at:  https://www.thedailymash.co.uk/politics/politics-headlines/guilt-ridden-brexit-bus-in-self-destructive-shame-spiral-20180805175990

EU Flag available at:  https://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/more-disabled-people-add-their-voices-to-brexit-opposition/

David Cameron available at:  https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/david-camerons-full-speech-conservative-6589711

Flying Pig available at:  https://imgbin.com/png/tnHBnQip/flying-pig-png

US Flag available at:  https://www.military.com/flag-day/us-flag-code.html

Trump available at:  http://www.financetwitter.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/

M16 available at: https://machinegunamericaorlando.com/gun_types/machine-guns/

NRA Logo available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Rifle_Association#/media/File:National_Rifle_Association_official_logo.svg

In God we trust available at:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_God_We_Trust

Daniel Rohrbough available at:  https://metro.co.uk/2019/04/20/remembering-the-13-victims-of-columbine-high-school-massacre-20-years-on-9228117/

Sri Lankan Daily Mirror available at:  http://www.dailymirror.lk/print/opinion/Donald-Trump-the-nationalist-messiah-from-the-Wild-West/172-119764

NY Post available at:  https://nypost.com/2019/08/04/the-post-says-ban-assault-weapons-now/

Microphone head available at:  https://www.gear4music.com/Recording-and-Computers/Shure-A58WS-Foam-Windscreen-for-Ball-Type-Microphone-Black/PD0?origin=product-ads&utm_campaign=PLA+Shop+-+Shure&utm_medium=vertical_search&network=google&adgroup=2+-+Brand+Level+-+Shure&merchant_id=1279443&product_id=32868d1&product_country=GB&product_partition_id=84412766959&gclid=Cj0KCQjw2K3rBRDiARIsAOFSW_4Z6GmqBj5Gs4ezcAK69FX42zzfP_zeAX_pWv7DaRygH5p2UenWdfYaAt2WEALw_wcB

Border Camp Image Sergio Flores for The Washington Post/Getty Images available at:  https://www.gq.com/story/us-border-concentration-camps

Rioters in Washington, D.C., on Inauguration Day (Photo: Sara L. Voisin/Washington Post/Getty Images) available at:  https://www.nationalreview.com/2017/06/antifa-protest-donald-trump-roots-left-wing-political-violence/

Skull and Cross Bones available at:  https://www.cleanpng.com/png-skull-and-bones-skull-and-crossbones-human-skull-s-4559270/

Methane Structure available at:  https://www.pinclipart.com/pindetail/JbmJo_methane-molecule-structure-atom-chemical-compound-methane-ball/

Pinterest Screen Shot available at: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/search/pins/?q=photomontage&rs=typed&term_meta[]=photomontage%7Ctyped

Science Focus: How many cars equal the CO2 emissions of one plane? Available at:https://www.sciencefocus.com/future-technology/how-many-cars-equal-the-co2-emissions-of-one-plane/

The Greenhouse Gas Methane (CH4) Abstract, Gerhard K. Heilig, Nov 1994, Springer Link. Available at: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF02208779

Are cows the cause of global warming? Time for Change, 2008. Available at:https://timeforchange.org/are-cows-cause-of-global-warming-meat-methane-CO2

Explained: What is Fake News? Available at: https://www.webwise.ie/teachers/what-is-fake-news/

Exercise: Understanding Colour


Portrait of Johannes Itten, by Paula Stockmar, father of the Farbenkugel, or Colour wheel, wearing one of his self made robes whilst working as a member of staff at the Staatliches Bauhaus in Weimar 1920.

This particular exercise starts to draw on various strands of professional practice across the graphic design spectrum as well as delving further into DTP software and understanding the role of colour.

As with all exercises the first task to read the brief and consider what actions to take to help deliver the expected outcome. Notes were taken and ideas developed.

Keynotes to help formulate my plan

The first task was to look at each word and break it down to consider its meaning beyond the face value and to consider how these definitions could be realised in colour. The next step was to then divide the 26 ideas proved by the exercise into themes.

This was a relatively straight forward task and the ideas were separated into Harmonious, Neutral and Harsh themes. This also allowed to consider the form that my colour combinations would take.

I then considered colour. As the themes were self-explanatory I opened a series of photo’s from my library where the colour reflected the three themes. These were then pixelated through Affinity Designer and Publisher to provide a 256 colour palette, of which I made several.

I then created a grid, into which I chose palettes that were populated with what I considered to be 40 bright and dark colors. These palettes were further pixelated, again using affinity products, to produce bespoke 256 colour palettes.

Screenshot ContactSheet-001

Screenshots of colour palette development

The resultant colours were then chosen to represent the lighter and darker sides of human nature. This in itself was great fun and let me focus on the clours that I really felt matched what I was aiming to achieve.

Light (L) and Dark (R) palettes

The next phase was to design how the clours would work as contrast and dynamic partners and whether or not similar shades could also be contrasting? The final question was form presentation. How could these combinations be presented?

I decided on using a differing physical form for each idea as below. I would also experience with DTP to utilise certain effects. An inner shadow was adopted for the Harsh themes, whilst an outer glow was adopted for the Harmonious themes. The Neutral theme would be soft on the eye, but different enough to ensure the viewer would not confuse it with the other themes.

Energetic, Vital and Unhappy

Overall a great exercise, not only for experimenting with colour, but also for working with DTP and learning a little more about how to manipulate images to suit a purpose. This work allowed me to consider contrasts and what worked and what didn’t. It also showed me that selecting contrasts isn’t always the easiest task and takes quite a bot of concentration and consideration.

Final tearsheets featuring all the emotions by name

Resources used

Portrait of Johannes Itten, by Paula Stockmar, 1920, available at https://www.bauhaus100.com/the-bauhaus/people/masters-and-teachers/johannes-itten/ (accessed 19/08/2019)

Whitford, F. (1988) Bauhaus. Thames and Hudson. London

Mollica, P. (2013). Walter Foster. CA

Muller-Brockmann, J. (2019) Grid Systems in Graphic Design 13th edn. Niggli, Salenstein.

Research Point: Embracing the Technofear

Well never let it be said that we Skipper’s allow the march of technology to steal a pace on us. That said never let it be said that we dare read the manuals and take our time, develop our practice and persevere. We do none of that ordinarily. However when working with Adobe products if you don’t follow steps found in a myriad of good second-hand resources then you truly are a fool to yourself.

The one thing I have found as I worked through numerous exercises and projects is that the more ‘little successes’ I experienced the more I wanted to learn about the product I was using, in this case Photoshop. Lightroom I use for quick batch working when on task, and don’t feel it has the subtly I desire for my finer work. Nonetheless, it’s still an amazing piece of engineering.

Whilst many complain the CC package is expensive, it’s hugely flexible and has helped both my photographic processing and graphic design output look sharper.

Such is my interest in using this program I’m currently studying for my Adobe Certified Associate Exam Preparation. Using the Rob Schwartz text I’m slowly making headway through the package and hoping to glean more helpful hints and tips.

As I progressed through my studies I’ve found myself seeking something that allows me to develop the painterly side of my creativity. I found myself drawn towards producing animated style still images, especially the simplistic naïve style.

Knowing I’m not particularly flush with funds I did some investigating and found Designer a wonderful program made by Serif Studios. Costing a fraction of what Adobe offers (maybe they should consider doing a Graphic Designer package?) I invested in a download and the accompanying workbook and set to.

Overall, given my shear chimp-like ability to understand anything more technical than a light switch investing in the workbook was the best thing I could have done. Whilst a lot of the commands and menus are pretty straightforward the world of the Pixel Persona, Raster and other such utterances are simply confuddling. Yet my confidence has soared as I progress through the simple exercises, becoming familiar with the terminology, techniques, and commands.

By persevering, I’ve somehow managed to create some pretty decent images and characters as well as being able to put my recently acquired knowledge of the kerning and leading to practice. Another bonus to this purchase has been the opportunity to try the Beta version of their Publisher program, which I’ve already used for a couple of projects on this course.

For all these well-designed programs I’m still using old school paints, and pencils, scanning them in at 600dpi and cleaning them up with Photoshop and then manipulating accordingly.

So far so good. However, I fear that as I progress and my experience grows there may well be something else, shiny, new and indispensable to add to my e-arsenal of graphic design tools. Which given the spread of tools I use can be no bad thing surely?

Resources Used

Schwartz, R. (2019), Learn Adobe Photoshop CC for Visual Design. 2nd Edn. Adobe.

The Affinity Team (2017), Affinity Designer Workbook, 1st Edn 3rd Reprint. Affinity.

Affinity Packages: https://affinity.serif.com/en-us/

Adobe Packages: https://www.adobe.com/uk/