Today, we’re going to make a collage like those made by John Stezaker. Now, for this you’ll need some glue, a craft knife—I like using a Stanley blade—and some white card. You’ll also need a stack of eight by ten black and white glamor photographs. Some old glamor photographs will do nicely.
John Stezaker is an artist. He makes collages using publicity photographs of movie stars and entertainers from the 1940s and 1950s.
Now you might also like to use some colorized postcards of distant exotic lands from around six or seven decades ago to add a bit of commentary to the original image.
Some are well-known stars, some less so. Stezaker dissects these photographs and places them together, sometimes overlapping, on to card or paper, to create, what he describes as “new beings.”
Once you’ve selected the photographs you want to work with—I usually select two—decide how exactly you would like to mix together. I usually lay mine side-by-side before making any decision about where to cut them.
Stezaker tends to work at night during “explosions of activity.” The next morning, he might dismantle the image and start again. This is all part of the creative process.
When you’ve decided how you’re going to place your two images together, use your craft knife to cut across the photos, like this, I use a ruler to keep the line smooth. You could, I suppose, use a guillotine. Now, do the same with the second picture then place the two together.
Stezaker’s collages are hybrid gender-bending portraits of sliced and spliced men and women. Sometimes their faces are lost in dreamy scenic beauty or are figures isolated by landscape. His collages are recognizable but oddly disconcerting. It is difficult to identify the separate parts without being overpowered by the whole. He is questioning our relationship to the past and ideas about memory and how we view the world and the people in it.
Occasionally he will add in a postcard to cover a headshot to suggest an inner reality or an emotional distance between people.
Once you have the two opposite halves of your new face ready, glue them down on to the card and you’ll have a new image.
Stezaker describes his collaged heads as “more like people than the original bland glamour shots of the 40s and 50s.”
Let the glue dry, I usually leave mine overnight, and then you’ll finish up with a picture that looks like one of Stezaker’s, except it’s not.
His collage work seems “deceptively simple” but Stezaker spends considerable time sourcing and choosing his imagery before creating a picture. He takes his inspiration from the Surrealists and Marcel Duchamp. The titles of his work are functional. For example, Masks where scenic postcards disguise faces. Marriages and Betrayals, were the glamor portraits of a men and a women are spliced together to create a new identity.
It seems kinda apt that Stezaker looks a cross between two other people—a bit of Kurt Vonnegut and some W. G. Sebald. He was born in 1949 and attended the Slade School of Art graduating with a Fine Art Diploma in 1973. Since then, he has exhibited his work on-and0ff, but since the turn of the century has had a revitalized interest in his collage work, which led to Stezaker being hailed as “a major influence on the Young British Art movement.” Most recently he has exhibited in the USA and Australia. See more of his work here.
More faces from the past reimagined for the present, after the jump…