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The Art of Photo-Collage

Grades: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
Related Subjects: English - Language Arts, Visual & Performing Arts
Medium: Mixed Media, Photography
Class time required: 2 X 50 minute sessions
Author: Museum of Photographic Arts

Student Examples

Student Examples

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In this one to two-session lesson, students will be introduced to the concept of photo-collage. Photo-collages allow students to combine different pictures into one new composition. Working with photographs that have been taken or found images, students will create photo-collages as a means of creative expression. Using selected photographs students will discuss and analyze the expressive nature and mood of collage-making and how it is often used to express a personal statement. Students will record their ideas and reflections while incorporating these ideas into an original work of art. A second session, or final critique of the students’ original artwork, is recommended to be held in culmination of the project. The students will lead a discussion about their own work as well as the work of their peers.



  • Card stock
  • Magazines and photographs
  • Glue and/or glue sticks
  • Scissors
  • Pens
  • Camera (optional)
  • Printer (optional)
  • Glossary terms: collage, montage, photo-collage, theme


Edison’s Light

Edison’s Light
Robert ParkeHarrison

The Saint in the Marketplace

The Saint in the Marketplace
Masumi Hayashi

Teachers Preparation

  • Print the above images onto overhead transparencies.
  • Familiarize yourself with the concept of photo-collage while thinking of any available materials you might be able to incorporate into the students’ construction.
  • Purchase The Visual Classroom. This is not required, though it is a recommended resource available for purchase at The Museum of Photographic Arts. This resource will aid in a variety of activities that incorporate creative writing and photographic imagery, and contains ideas for classroom usage and curriculum incorporation.


Session One
1. Begin a discussion with the students about Photo-Collage: What is a collage? What is a photo-collage? Where have you seen one? Who has made one before? What do you think a photo-collage could be about? Why do people make photo-collages?

2. Define the terms ‘collage’ and ‘photo-collage’ for the students and write them on the board. Explain to the students how photo-collages allow an artist to combine different pictures, found images, and objects into one new composition. Discuss how a photo-collage can be influenced by current attitudes and ideas of the artist or the world he or she lives in. Explain the idea of having an intention and a theme, or main idea, in a collage. Explain how a significant idea or theme can be used to express, share, or focus attention on a personal story, idea, memory, feeling, etc.

3. Have the class brainstorm a list of possible subject matter and ideas for making a photo-collage. Write these on the board.

4. Show the students the panoramic photo-collage,
The Saint in the Market Place, Meenakshi Temple, Madurai, India, 2003, by Masumi Hayashi. Ask the students the following questions: What’s going on in this picture? What do you see that makes you say that? What more can you find? What moods or feelings does this photo-collage evoke? Discuss possible techniques that Masumi Hayashi used in the making of this image. After each student provides a response, acknowledge his/her response by pointing to the image and paraphrasing what he/she said. Continue this questioning for several minutes.

5. Continue on with the discussion, using the image
Edison’s Light by Robert ParkeHarrison. Discuss how the title affects one’s understanding of an image. Ask students how the meaning of the photograph would change if the title was different. Ask the students if the title changed their interpretation of the image or if it remained the same.

6. Let the students know that they will be making their own photo-collages. They will be required to find and select 10-20 images that convey a main idea, theme, or tell a story. Encourage the students to be as creative as possible. Make sure to reinforce the idea of having an existing theme in the collage.

7. Have the students collect images and think about how they would like to assemble them onto the page of cardstock. Once they have the desired composition, allow them to begin to glue down the images, while reinforcing the idea of a theme or personal statement throughout the lesson.

Session Two
A critique at the end is encouraged. Display the final works so all can see. Explain to the students that they will be talking about their images, stating their intentions and the process, while commenting on how successful they felt the final work to be. Allow the students to lead themselves in the critique and open it up for all to participate. Encourage the students to comment on other students’ artworks and ask questions about intentions and the process. Reinforce that when making art, nothing can be considered right or wrong, good or bad, but that it is an exploration by creative means, often a commentary of the self and the world we live in.

• This project can be expanded to include a personal, cultural, or political statement.
• If there is camera availability, the students can shoot a roll of film or digital, with an established theme, and process or print the images to be combined in making a large-scale photo-collage of their own images.
• Photo-Collage in the style of Masumi Hayashi: To create her panoramic photo collages, Hayashi's process is both systematic and open to change. She begins at the horizon line, shooting approximately two-dozen photographs in a horizontal circular rotation until she ends up where she began. She then angles upwards, then downwards, continuing until she has fully captured the landscape around her. When Hayashi returns to the studio, she collaborates with a printer to produce the component photographs and begins the final phase of assembling the collages. The resulting photo collages range from a 100-degree to 540-degree rotation and include as many as 140 individual photographs or as few as five.


CA Content Standards

Fourth Grade Visual Arts
1.5 Describe and analyze the elements of art (e.g., color, shape/form, line, texture, space, value), emphasizing form, as they are used in works of art and found in the environment.

Fifth Grade Visual Arts
1.2 Identify and describe characteristics of representational, abstract, and nonrepresentational works of art.

2.4 Create an expressive abstract composition based on real objects.

2.5 Assemble a found object sculpture (as assemblage) or a mixed media two-dimensional composition that reflects unity and harmony and communicates a theme.

2.7 Communicate values, opinions, or personal insights through an original work of art.

4.3 Develop and use specific criteria as individuals and in groups to assess works of art.

4.4 Assess their own works of art, using specific criteria, and describe what changes they would make for improvement.

Sixth Grade Visual Arts
2.6 Use technology to create original works of art.

4.1 Construct and describe plausible interpretations of what they perceive in works of art.

4.3 Develop specific criteria as individuals or in groups to assess and critique works of art.

Seventh Grade Visual Arts
2.3 Develop skill in using mixed media while guided by a selected principle of design.

2.6 Create an original work of art, using film, photography, computer graphics, or video.

4.1 Explain the intent of a personal work of art and draw possible parallels between it and the work of a recognized artist.

4.3 Take an active part in a small-group discussion about the artistic value of specific works of art, with a wide range of the viewpoints of peers being considered.

4.4 Develop and apply specific and appropriate criteria individually or in groups to assess and critique works of art.

Eighth Grade Visual Arts
2.3 Create an original work of art, using film, photography, computer graphics, or video.

4.3 Construct an interpretation of a work of art based on the form and content of the work.

4.4 Develop and apply a set of criteria as individuals or in groups to assess and critique works of art.

Fourth Grade English-Language Arts
1.1 Ask thoughtful questions and respond to relevant questions with appropriate elaboration in oral settings

1.7 Emphasize points in ways that help the listener or viewer to follow important ideas and concepts.

Fifth Grade English-Language Arts
1.1 Ask questions that seek information not already discussed.

Sixth Grade English-Language Arts
1.5 Emphasize salient points to assist the listener in following the main ideas and concepts.

Seventh Grade English-Language Arts
1.1 Ask probing questions to elicit information, including evidence to support the speaker's claims and conclusions.

1.5 Arrange supporting details, reasons, descriptions, and examples effectively and persuasively in relation to the audience.

1.7 Provide constructive feedback to speakers concerning the coherence and logic of a speech's content and delivery and its overall impact upon the listener.

Eighth Grade English-Language Arts
1.2 Paraphrase a speaker's purpose and point of view and ask relevant questions concerning the speaker's content, delivery, and purpose.



Ades, Dawn. Photomontage: 203 Illustrations. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1986.

Jones, Frederic H. Digital Photography Just the Steps for Dummies. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley, 2005.

Lavrent'ev, A.N. Rodchenko Photography. New York: Rizzoli, 1982.

Sandler, Martin A. Photography, An Illustrated History, (Oxford Illustrated History). New York: Oxford University Press, Inc, 2002

The Visual Classroom: Integrating Photography into the School Curriculum. Education Department: Museum of Photographic Arts, 2000. To order, call 619-238-7559x236. Cost is $45. Additional shipping charges may apply.

Alexander Rodchenko
Russian avant-garde artist and activist, famous for photomontages.

Cut and Paste: A History of Photomontage
Historical background of photomontage spanning from the early 19th century to present day. Focusing on a few selected artists, this Web site includes several images of photo-collages and links to other Web site resources where one can find more information about the highlighted artists.

Library of Congress: American Memory
Sixty-two collections of photographs and prints from the Library of Congress American Memory project. Photo-collages can be found by doing a search on photomontage.

Masumi Hayashi
Site 1
Site 2
Collection of the large body of panoramic photo-collages by the Cleveland-based artist.

The Museum of Photographic Arts
Permanent collections and current exhibits at the Museum of Photographic Arts, Balboa Park, San Diego, CA.

Photography for Kids: Photography Projects, Ideas and Resources
A list of good Web sites for helping kids learn photography techniques, projects, cameras and optics, and history of photography. Includes book and software reviews.

Teaching Digital Photography: Showing Kids How to See With the Camera's Eye
A site that introduces digital camera and photography techniques, and helps kids understand media images and observe the world around them.

Visual Thinking Strategies: Vue: A Solution to Education’s Challenges
Visual Understanding in Education (VUE) conducts educational research focused on aesthetic and cognitive development that results from interaction with art. Based on its findings, VUE develops programs for schools and museums, principally Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS).


Bidner, Jenni. The Kids’ Guide to Digital Photography: How to Shoot, Save, Play With & Print Your Digital Photos. New York: Lark Books, 2004. Buckingham, Alan. Photography, DK Eyewitness Books. New York: Dorling Kindersley, 2004.

BetterPhoto for Kids and Teens
A site dedicated to kids and young adults interested in the art of taking pictures. Includes sections on pets, friends and family, vacations and more.


Museum of Photographic Arts
Mingei Museum Timken Museum of Art

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