Playing with Pictures - Siegel, Elizabeth; Di Bello, Patrizia; Weiss, Marta; Hofelt, Miranda - Yale University Press
Art and Architecture

Distributed for the Art Institute of Chicago 

Playing with Pictures

The Art of Victorian Photocollage

  • Elizabeth Siegel; With essays by Patrizia Di Bello and Marta Weiss; Contributions by Miranda Hofelt
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Out of Print.

Selected as one of the Favorite Books of 2009 by John Wilson, editor, Books & Culture

Chosen for the Holiday Book Guide: Photography, Richard B. Woodward, The Wall Street Journal

Human heads on animal bodies, people in fanciful landscapes, faces that are deftly morphed into common household objects—these are among the Victorian experiments in photocollage seen and explained in this marvelous book. With sharp wit and dramatic shifts of scale, these images flouted the serious conventions of photography in the 1860s and 1870s. Often made by women for albums, they reveal the educated minds and accomplished hands of their makers, taking on the new theory of evolution, addressing the changing role of photography, and challenging the strict conventions of aristocratic society. Although these photocollages may seem wonderfully odd to us now, the authors argue that they are actually perfectly in keeping with the Victorian sensibility that embraced juxtaposition and variety.


This delightful book, the first to examine comprehensively the little-known phenomenon of Victorian photocollage, presents imagery that has rarely—and, in many cases, never—been displayed or reproduced. Illuminating text provides a history of Victorian photocollage albums, identifies the common motifs found in them, and demonstrates the distinctly modern character of the medium, which paved the way for the future avant-garde potential of both photography and collage.

Elizabeth Siegel is Associate Curator of Photography at the Art Institute of Chicago. Patrizia Di Bello is a lecturer in the history and theory of photography at Birkbeck College, University of London. Marta Weiss is the Curator of Photographs in the Word and Image Department at the Victoria and Albert Museum.


Art Institute of Chicago (10/10/09 – 1/3/10)

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2/2/10 – 5/9/10)

Art Gallery of Ontario (6/5 – 9/5/10)