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A collage is a form of art (primarily in the visual arts) that is made from an assemblage of different pieces, thus creating a new whole. It is a popular form of fan art, both in fanzines and online.
Although the origins of collage can be traced back hundreds of years, the technique made a dramatic reappearance in the early twentieth century as a novelty art form that became a distinctive part of modern art. The term "collage" therefore dates from that period, when it was separately coined by both Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso. In general terms, collages of this type may include newspaper clippings, ribbons, bits of colored or hand-made papers, portions of other artwork, photographs, or other found objects which are glued to a background piece of paper or canvas.
Fannish collages typically include images from the original source, such as screen captures. Image-editing software is used to combine them in a technique called compositing. Collage techniques are often employed in the creation of banners, icons, and wallpaper. Subjects may be of general connection to the fandom, but the images chosen will often focus on one particular character or relationship. By combining several pictures, the artist is able to show various and multiple aspects of the nature of the subject simultaneously.
Collage is an important element of zine design for punk zines, personalzines, and modern-day non-fannish zine culture. This intentionally crude, cut-and-paste DIY style is comparatively absent from the covers of media fanzines, which adopted increasingly sophisticated (expensive!) printing technology to reproduce traditional art done by fanartists like Suzan Lovett. Meanwhile, the cover art on a lot of 90s-00s media zines produced with desktop publishing software is accurately termed "collage", but in no way resembles a punk aesthetic. At least one recent media fanzine differentiated itself by intentionally adopting a "zine-style" aesthetic. See Zine Art and History of Fanart.
Tumblr Collage Meme
In early 2013, a particular style of collage became popular in some fandoms on Tumblr. The phenomenon was somewhat memelike in its sudden appearance and rapid dissemination. These collages were born digital, but imitated a style of amateur print collage assembled with scissors, glue, and magazine cutouts of celebrity photos. Added to the photos were a set of stock images that included hand-drawn hearts and banners inscribed with standard phrases like "can u not," "you little shit," and other expressions of tumblr-style feels. The timing and the use of the hearts (very similar to the Valentine's Day candy) suggests that the meme was inspired by the holiday. In this context, the collages can be read as valentine cards for the subjects (but not literally). Musicians appear to be the most common subjects of these collages.
The meme's origins are murky and may not have been specifically fannish, but part of the venn diagram of tumblr users interested in current pop music, fashion, and design. (Or, it could be said to have been started by fans of singer Lana Del Rey, who were also probably to blame for the Flower Crown meme started in March.) A likely inspiration is the fashion site Polyvore, which allows users to create collages; some of these were posted on Tumblr (the polyvore collage tag goes back to December 21, 2012). A number of very popular collages in a similar style featuring women were circulating on Tumblr in early 2013: for example Lana Del Rey, posted January 9 and January 31; model Cara Delevingne, posted January 27. Most of the early efforts lacked the key ingredients of aggressive love hearts or profane banners (although these may also have originated on polyvore?). Tumblr posts sharing the stock images were in circulation in early February. Starting in early February, One Direction fans such as zaptains were posting fannish collages, sometimes with American or British Valentine's candies. By February 6, 1D fans were noting the trend and had no idea who started it. A very popular miscellaneous-pop-culture collage using the stock images was posted by stateeofdreaming on February 5. The style took several days to develop, but true fannish tumblr-style collages were being posted by February 8.
Browsing through the fandom-specific tags shows that fandoms for teen music idols like One Direction, Justin Bieber, and Taylor Swift had adopted the style by March 2013. However, many One Direction collages were posted even before Valentine's Day, but were untagged. Collages for youtubers and Hannibal also appeared. Megafandoms Supernatural, Sherlock, and Avengers are conspicuously absent.
A very sophisticated digital composition: back cover of a Merlin fanmix by vikyvampirs (2010)
Digital Tumblr collage by dolceshu of Gerard Way; the composition of the image is fairly representative of the meme (April 2013)
Another meme entry, representing an alternative trend of centering the collage on a plain background instead of filling all available space. Art of Niall Horan by nnarry. (April 2013)
A shipper entry in the Tumblr collage meme, featuring Louis Tomlinson/Nick Grimshaw, by aegonx (June 2013)
Hugh Dancy in a flower crown, by nopeicant. This is a less common style of tumblr collage using copies of only one photo or a few photos taken on the same occasion (July 2013)
- Adapted in part from the Wikipedia article on Collage.
- by pilipinoshabsols with 15,842 notes as of 9 September 2015.
- For all of you cara lovers posted by vicsecretmodels. archived. 94,011 notes as of 16 August 2015.
- For example, see this collection of "rude hearts" by stateeofdreaming, 8 February 2013.
- untitled Tumblr collage, Archived version posted by zaptains on February 4, featuring Louis Tomlinson. The post had 5330 notes as of 1 August 2015.
- 1D collage using the standard American Valentine's candy: untitled tumblr post, Archived version by harrysniall, 3 February 2013. The post had 6112 notes as of 1 August 2015.
- likesboys tag comment: #yay the one trend that i like!!#thank you for whoever started ittt. flawlexxx tag comment: #i love this collage trend#it's like seeing my soul projected onto my dash every time i see one
- untitled Tumblr collage, Archived version by stateeofdreaming, featuring Marina and the Diamonds, Lana Del Rey, Molly Ringwald, Legally Blonde, Sky Ferreria, Punk Alice in Wonderland, Saved by the Bell, Cara Delevigne, and Donnie Darko. The post had 55,197 notes as of 28 July 2015.
- A Niall Horan collage, complete with "can u not" hearts, was posted by shreeyeh on February 8; the creator tagged it with since everyone was doing these i thought id give it a swirl, so this was evidently not the first. The post (direct link; archived) had 9,527 notes as of 1 August 2015. At least by February 15, collages were appearing in completely unrelated music fandoms: releasethedoves posted a Gerard Way collage that had 1,796 notes as of 28 July 2015, with a "you little shit" heart. untitled Tumblr post, Archived version
- The first post in this style in the 1d collage tag was made on March 6, 2013 (archived) by tothemoonmydarling, though its conversation hearts are not the typical stock images seen later in the month.