Posts Tagged ‘photomontage’

Photojournalism and photomontage in the 1930s

December 2, 2015
Weekly Illustrated magazine pioneered photojournalism (3 March 1936)

Weekly Illustrated magazine pioneered photojournalism (3 March 1936)

The 1930s saw a revolution in photojournalism in British weekly magazines with German pioneers using Leica 35mm cameras. The leader of the trend was Weekly Illustrated, under the editorship of Stefan  Lorant, who had worked on Münchner Illustrierte Presse before being forced to flee Germany. In London, he confirmed his place as one of the most influential editors of the 20th century.

Lorant relaunched Clarion magazine for Odhams as the large format Weekly Illustrated in 1934, and went on to launch both Lilliput (1937) and Picture Post (1938). He turned to his old colleagues who had also left Nazi Germany, including  Felix Man and Kurt Hutton. They had rejected bulky plate cameras and flash guns in favour of Leicas and available light, a technique that produced much more natural-looking images. The techniques were taken up in the US, by Life two years later.

The cover of Weekly Illustrated above from 3 March 1936 is also notable for its use of photomontage, which was also developed in Germany, particularly through the work of the Dadaist John Heartfield. The magazine cover uses at least three photographs: Edward VIII, the liner and the shipyard workers. Behind the liner is the gigantic Titan crane at the Clydebank shipyard, which can still be seen at the site. Spot red has been used to colour the Queen Mary’s funnels and a tint of this for the faces and the hair on two of the men.

As with so many magazines at the time, Weekly Illustrated was printed using photogravure by Sun printers in Watford. It took over Passing Show in 1939, to become Illustrated and was the main competitor for Lorant’s Picture Post, which it outlived, closing in 1958.

>>Weekly magazines

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Magazine cover design – in search of the 3D effect

November 7, 2015
Picturegoer magazine cover design with 3D effect from 23 April 1953. Arlene Dahl is the film star model

Picturegoer magazine cover design with 3D effect from 25 April 1953. Arlene Dahl is the film star model

Nowadays, there are many technical strategies that can be used to give a three-dimensional effect to a magazine cover design, including holograms and lenticular stick-ons.

The first magazine hologram I’m aware of was one stuck on a Venture cover from Redwood Publishing in about 1985. Lenticular imagery has been around at least since publicity postcards for the 1968 film of Alistair Maclean’s Ice Station Zebra, and became popular on magazines in about 2001.

But before these, clever graphical tricks were the only viable approach – I’ve never seen a publisher try the red/green printing with plastic glasses on a cover, though it has been used freqently on inside pages since the 1950s from magazines such as Picture Post.

This cover design on movie weekly Picturegoer from 25 April 1953 is a good example. It’s a complex photomontage and is also self-referential with parts of 10 other covers shown as the background. The main photograph is of the hands holding a black and white publicity photograph of Arlene Dahl, described by IMDB as ‘one of the most beautiful actresses to have graced the screen during the postwar period’. The site lists no less than five of her films in 1953.

Note that the hands appear to be in colour. This is because the cover uses the second special colour for the title box as a tint to give a wash over the hands and a paler tint still over the background. The technique was common on gravure-printed weeklies in the 1950s.

All in all, an ambitious piece of work, though to my mind the title sitting over the photograph is a commercial compromise that destroys the overall visual logic – but then no publisher wants the title to be a subsiduary element when the magazine has to sell on a very competitive news-stand each week. However, as the Picturegoer magazine cover design below from 11 April 1953 shows, many issues did carry a much less prominent masthead.

Picturegoer from 11 April 1953 with a less prominent masthead

Picturegoer from 11 April 1953 with a less prominent masthead for a Kirk Douglas cover

Inside the Arlene Dahl issue of ‘The national film weekly’ from Odhams Press, the 3D theme continues with a review of Bwana Devil, described as Hollywood’s first full-length three-dimensional feature. The critic’s reaction will be familiar to many people who’ve seen any of the recent spate of 3D films (Gravity being the exception for me): ‘Picturegoers are bitterly disappointed in their introduction to Hollywood’s third dimension. They see a real danger in Hollywood’s giving them eye-straining technical tasters in place of sound, satisfying entertainment.’

>Film magazines

>>See my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design