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Photomontage Portraiture:The Most Meaningful Gift in the World

Fran and Rick K's Valentine Photomontage by digital artist Nancy Gershman     
[Jump ahead to find out why these symbols are in Fran and Rick’s custom photo collage: a smiley face ping pong ball, an image of the Attaché Motel, a heart made from seaweed, a red MG, a yellow bird in a wine glass cocktail, and a beach in Jamaica]

Your searching days are over. In my studio Art For Your Sake, I specialize in legacy portraiture not unlike the classical portraits you find in many of the nation’s finest portrait galleries. Although they are fine art photomontages collaged together from memories and stories told to me about the subject, they are ambitious attempts to capture the whole person. What was their purpose in life? What was their greatest achievement: their career, family, or a contribution to mankind? What do they want to be remembered for?

Technique. The techniques I use are similar to those Renaissance portraits where the subject is opulently attired holding an object of  religious significance, or representing earthly success and status. Only in my modern-day legacy portraits, meaningful imagery runs the gamut. The objects around the subject, the landscape they stand in, what they are wearing or holding all have special meaning for the subject. For example, in the custom photomontage shown above, Fran is asked for stories about her fairytale courtship with husband Rick:

  • They met playing ping pong in the Attaché Motel where Rick lived since he was 8 years old [the motel no longer exists so I turned it into clouds in the sky and also put the motel logo on Rick’s t-shirt]
  • When they went to the beach together, they formed a heart out of seaweed
  • Rick loved taking Fran for rides in his red MG [I combined 2 photos to create the illusion]
  • Fran loved her yellow bird cocktails [see the bird in her glass!]
  • Every year they’d go to Jamaica for vacation

Now note each of the meaningful objects I put in bold and find them in Fran and Rick’s “soulmate dreamscape” (as I call these types of digitally-collaged  portraits). Only instead of chronicling royalty, I am giving significant importance to the infinite details that make up a great love.The end result is a whimsical depiction of an enduring relationship – with slightly surrealistic overtones and a touch of humor.

One-of-a-Kind. The beauty of my fine art photo montages is that each custom digital photo collage is completely custom, made for one person and one person only, using the subject’s own photographs. Seeing photos they “had all this time” turned into pure magic is what makes them reach for the tissue box! Truth be told, the person you’re giving the gift to doesn’t even have to be one person; they could be a family or even an organization. Or your custom photo gift could be for a roast, or a retirement party. But one thing is for certain: Dreamscape photo gifts are not only perfect for the person who has everything, but also the person who wants to feel deeply, deeply loved. For this reason, and those to follow, a custom portrait is something that never gets re-gifted – and never adds to the clutter.

Now let’s take a closer look why creating original artwork from personal photos makes such a winning gift.

Affordable. My custom collage portraits are affordable for one reason and one reason only: it’s a cinch to convince others to go in on a meaningful gift. If all you’ve got in your budget is $40, $50 or $60 to spend, three or four friends or siblings or cousins will be happy to chip in to buy something especially thoughtful for your Special Someone. One look at their portrait, and this person will be thrilled that you did all the legwork to find such a great Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, roast, anniversary or birthday gift idea. And their friends and family will be even happier that you came up with the idea of starting a collection for this unique custom photo gift so that their contribution towards a quality gift could be so affordable. (Example: Fran and Rick’s gift cost only $288 because their children gave it as a group gift.)

Expensive-looking. Fine art always looks expensive. Why? According to WIKIPEDIA, fine art is the opposite of “shallow, superficial and excessively sentimental.” In other words, fine art is not kitsch. When you commission a custom photo collage portrait from my studio, I treat each assignment as if I’m making a museum-worthy work of art. Everything I make, I make with the same loving attention I give to the pieces that go into my exhibitions (see my solo show at The Loyola University Museum of Art). What’s super special about these digital photo collages is that an artist is telling extraordinary stories about your loved one by turning ordinary personal photographs into extraordinary ones. Very often I add imagery from my own photography collection to enhance the story-telling, again, with meaningfulness.

Here’s how Fran described Rick’s reaction to his custom photomontage:

“We had a surprise party for Rick. The kids got up to speak and then he saw it, but you know, he didn’t see it. Only after everybody went home and he sat down and looked at the details, did he start to realize what everything was. He’s not emotional at all, but this — he was really touched by it. First by the picture of us sitting on his MG (which you created out of two photos). Then The Attaché. It brought back so many good memories!”

That’s why I always start with a little conversation about your vision of the piece.