For this project, I chose the theme of “advocating peace” for my final photomontages (inspired by Peter Kennard). For my final outcome, I produced two photomontages that display the horror of the war in Syria and the reality for millions of Syrian refugees.
I chose this theme for my photomontages because I recently saw a video of a 5 year old Syrian boy sitting in an ambulance. The boy was covered in blood and dirt but was not crying nor was he panicking like you would have expected. The caption that accompanied the image said that since the boy was 5 years old, and the Syrian war began five years prior to the photo being taken, the boy had literally grown up in a war zone. He had never known a moments peace in his entire life, and so he thought that seeing all his loved ones deteriorating from the war was normal. This image really struck a cord with me, and I decided to incorporate him into my final piece. He is the boy featured in my second photomontage.
My aim for this project was to create impactful, meaningful works of art that really manage to unsettle an audience. I remember when I first saw the video of the little boy, I had the strongest urge to look away but I told myself that to look away and remain ignorant would be an injustice to the boy and the millions of other refugees. Many people have the attitude that “ignorance is bliss”, and that since the crisis isnt happening here, it’s not our problem. I wanted to try change that with my photomontages.
To make my final piece as impactful as possible, I wanted to portray these refugees in everyday places that Londoners could relate to, like living rooms, supermarkets, shopping centres, libraries, etc. By doing this, it would tell the audience that just because the crisis isn’t happening here, that doesn’t mean its not happening. I chose to compose my images with the subjects being in the very centre of the images, because to me this feels like I’m forcing the viewer to come face to face with the issue at hand. There is no ignoring the message that I’m trying to send with these montages, which is that we should all be protecting these peoples right to peace.
For the editing process for my photos, as mentioned before I based my montages on Jean McEwans simple editing style. I used only two images in each photomontage and didnt include any text. I chose to have both montages in black and white purely for visual purposes. I tried adjusting the coloured versions of the images in order to make them look more like one single photo but it proved to be very difficult. I found that when I made them black and white, it was easier to make them more similar using the brightness/contrast tool.
One limitation of my final outcome is that the editing isn’t perfect (in my opinion). If I re-did this project in the future, I would practice a lot more with the editing in order to combine the images more seamlessly (the way Jerry Uelsmann does with his montages). Another area of improvement for the future is the number of final photomontages I produced. Although I only created two final pieces, I think it would be great to expand and include other relatable areas like cinemas, tourist spots (like the London Eye, etc), libraries, high streets, etc. Having a larger variety of locations would ensure that more people would be able to relate to at least one of the photomontages and therefore would be affected at a deeper level.
Overall, I am very happy with my final pieces. I showed them to a few peers and received the reaction that I was looking for. They all talked about how horrible it was that there were people going through this while everyone on this side of the world is taking their freedom and peace for granted. A few people said that it made them a bit uncomfortable, but I took this as a compliment because if it doesnt make them uncomfortable, how will it encourage them to make a difference?