Read Culture

Unseen Photo Fair 2014: The Hand-Built Image

From meticulous collages to deceptive sets, five photographers’ take on the time-honored art of physical photo manipulation

A motto we adhere to around CH HQ is that there are no new ideas, only new executions. Such is true of contemporary photo collage. The technique has been around since the early 1920s, when the Dadaists took to the medium so that they “could attack the bourgeoisie with distortions of its own communications imagery.” Agendas aside, many photographers still toy with this craft-like approach, but go beyond traditional cutting and glueing. At this year’s Unseen Photo Fair and in the center of town at Foam Gallery (the fair’s founding organization), we saw myriad ways in which photographers manipulate the viewer through a hand-built image. Below are five standouts.


Femke Dekkers

Dutch photographer Femke Dekkers bewilders the human eye with her sculptural compositions. Telling Unseen that she’s “looking for a perfect balance between a coincidence and a staged situation,” she uses everything from crayons to wallpaper and cardboard to create the sets that result in her “painted pictures.” This trick in depth and perception is utterly fascinating.

daniel-gordon-foam-2.jpg daniel-gordon-foam-1.jpg
Daniel Gordon

Currently filling the entirety of Foam’s upstairs sections is the laborious work of Brooklyn-based Daniel Gordon, who culls and prints images from the internet which he then assembles into an image of his own. Through meticulous layering and guileful lighting, he transforms fragmented parts into a brilliant whole.

lilly-lulay-unseen-1.jpg lilly-lulay-unseen-2.jpg
Lilly Lulay

In a nod to the fact that photos are—by definition—fragments of reality, German photographer Lilly Lulay collages together different images to depict a whole. Her keen understanding of color and pattern
make them compositionally compelling, but her use of snippets also lures the viewer into wanting to know more about each individual cut-out piece.


Nadine Stijns

For her exhibition of her series “A Nation Outside A Nation”—a documentation of Filipino labor migration—at Unseen, Dutch photographer Nadine Stijns layered images to “create a more tangible depiction of migrant life.” While her take on the technique is quite simple, the small twist really does amplify the viewer’s overall understanding of her subjects.


Caio Reisewitz

Born in 1967, Brazilian photographer Caio Reisewitz has capturing photographs of his native land for nearly two decades. His recent move into photo collage though has only heightened the impact of his images, and his scenes of urban environments fused with pictures of Brazil’s expansive rain forests really pinpoint the tribulations of economic development.

Images by Karen Day


More stories like this one.