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Magazine Photo Collage: Creating Meaning through Combined Imagery in Art Therapy

Updated: Nov 5, 2022

by Lauren Fallat, LPC LPAT ATR-BC

Often when we consider intuitive processes of artmaking, we might identify painting techniques, such as process painting or abstract expressionist painting, as highly effective in generating meaningful symbols and emotional release. Magazine photo collage is another art technique that is evocative and powerful in the images that surface and the meaning that can be generated through the symbolism and themes. Magazine photo collage requires that an individual be intentional in the photos and images that they use to create a combined collaged image that then transforms into its own unique whole.

Magazines have always been a steady source of inspiration for artists. The colorful images and interesting stories they contain can spark new ideas and ways of thinking. Magazines can be used in art therapy in many different ways. Some people might choose to use magazines that represent their personal interests, such as fashion, travel, nature or cars. Others might choose to use magazines that represent different aspects of their lives, such as work, family, or friends. As one begins to peruse the magazines that they have available to them, it might be helpful to begin sorting images based on themes, such as landscapes, colors, images with people, images of objects, images showing action, images of or with words or phrases, and images that express emotion. Having a collection of images containing these different themes can be helpful when beginning to choose and assemble the collaged image.

A photo collage is a composite picture made from an assembly of smaller pictures. Some individuals like to cut out images, while others like to tear pages into small pieces and then glue them back together to create new shapes. In the art therapy process, a photo collage can be used as a tool to help individuals explore and understand their feelings, thoughts, and experiences. By combining multiple photos into one piece of art, you can create a visual representation of your thoughts and emotions.

To make a magazine photo collage, you'll need:

-magazines, images from calendars, ephemera, photographs, patterned or textured papers

-glue stick (UHU) or tape (double sided tape can be easily applied using a tape runner!)

-a poster board or mat board

-scissors or Xacto knife and cutting board

Once you have all of your materials, follow these steps:

1. Cut out your photos or images from the magazine. Try to select different shapes and sizes and begin to sort the photos that you choose into themes, such as images with people, images of architecture, images with objects and images of landscapes.

2. Begin to select your images to place onto the surface of your choose, a mat board or thick poster board.

3. Arrange your photos on a flat surface in the order that you want them to appear in the collage. Consider your placement and how you want the images to interact- perhaps certain images that relate to one another are closer or certain images that share colors, textures or shapes are grouped together.

4. Use glue or tape to attach the photos to each other. Let them dry as you continue to add more images and consider moments of overlap or leaving some empty space.

5. Once your collage feels completed, you may want to write a reflection in your journal and consider what is being revealed or focused on in the collage in front of you.

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