Working in Germany in the interwar era, John Heartfield (born Helmut Herzfeld, 1891-1968) developed an innovative method of appropriating and reusing photographs to powerful political effect. A pioneer of modern photomontage, he assembled images that transformed the meaning of the mass-media photos from which they were taken. In "John Heartfield and the Agitated Image", Andres Mario Zervigon explores this crucial period in the life and work of this brilliant, radical artist whose desire to disclose the truth obscured by the mainstream press and the propaganda of politicians made him a de facto prosecutor of Germany's visual culture. Zervigon charts the evolution of Heartfield's photomontage from an act of antiwar resistance into a formalized and widely disseminated political art in the Weimar Republic, when his work appeared on everything from campaign posters to book covers. He explains how Heartfield's engagement with montage arose from dissatisfaction with photography's capacity to represent the modern world, and the result was likely the most important combination of avantgarde art and politics in the twentieth century.
A rare look at Heartfield's early and middle years as an artist and designer, this book provides a new understanding of photography's role at this critical juncture in history.