The Fine Art of Montage
By Richard Malinsky, Arts Editor
Teresa Meier is a fine art photographer, and her engaging website opens with “The Approach,” a mystical, surreal montage of a woman seated with a suitcase and birdcage afloat in a vast, calm sea. This work from her series The Witness Within, featured in WTP Vol. V #9, immediately identifies Meier as a narrative storyteller. However, rather than literal stories, her montages—collections of superimposed images—reference various elements witnessed, experienced, analyzed, and reassembled into her own mythology.
Technically, surreal multi-image photography has its roots in the 1960s and credits photographer Jerry Uelsmann as its founder. Working with black-and-white film and a series of pin-registered darkroom enlargers, he produced multiple exposures without any reference to a narrative.
Maggie Taylor, Uelsmann’s protégé, introduced this technique into the digital realm. With Photoshop she was able to achieve in a day what could take Uelsmann a week.
Taylor distinguished herself with her cinematic-grade color changes that lent depth, perspective, and form to her images. As well, she began to introduce narrative to her imagery—a legacy Meier continues, with her conceptual personal narratives, now combined with digital “stitching,” a “sewing” of Photoshop files to facilitate her large-scale photographic prints.
“Waiting,” another montage—particularly Hopperesque—from this same series, can seem a continuation of Meier’s story, with the woman now having arrived at her destination. She stands in a light-filled doorway, looking out at the sea and holding the now open-door birdcage. The left side of the image shows a partial view into the next room. A hint of a man’s hand and a picture on the wall turns out to actually be another image in the series.
These images clearly stand alone, but this idea of a continuing story is fascinating—and another way of piecing together puzzles, something Meier has always enjoyed: “I like to sift through all the pieces, analyzing their parts, and take immense satisfaction in seeing how they all fit together. For me, a photograph and a concept is an elaborate puzzle—a puzzle that puts me in remote landscapes at dusk, wandering through antique stores, building in the wood shop, sewing a new costume, and recently, a return to hand-drawn illustration.”
Meier’s second series on her site is The Parable Locket. Although this series does not seem as rooted in the fantastical, still evident is that same pattern of assembling the puzzle pieces of memory through a collection of individual images. The sum total of these rich images seems to embody comfort, happiness, and freedom within the environment of a special time and place—perhaps a childhood home. The powerful “Untitled “ image of a woman looking at a picture stirring her memory particularly captures this longing.
Other site offerings are Meier’s calendar of Master class, on her “Workshop” page, a most recent one held at the The Sitka Center for Art and Ecology. On her “Resource” page you can find some interesting insights into how she actually works, such as “Your Personal History as Inspiration.” Overall, Meier’s site proves a delightful experience, especially scrolling through her gallery of stories she hopes inspires stories of your own.
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