More Real than Reality: The Art of Canadian Composite Photography, 1870-1930

2015, Campbell House Museum, History, Temporary Exhibit
archival photos, Canada, history, leisure, photography, photography techniques, Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival, victorian
About This Project

Date: May 1 – 31, 2015

Partner: Campbell House Museum

Venue: Campbell House Museum – map

Project Members: Kaitlin Normandin, Shelsie Tunks, and Danielle Varadi-Starer


Composite photography alters the perception that photographs accurately document reality, yielding images that range from staid to fanciful. More Real than Reality showcases this unique mixed-media technique, which combines separate portraits of individuals together with painted or photographed backgrounds and then re-photographs them as a new image.


Emerging in the Victorian era, composites were developed to overcome photography’s technical limitations. They allowed for aesthetic experimentation as photographers were no longer limited to creating images that captured only a single moment in time. The images require participatory viewing, their complexity challenging viewers to decipher how the photographer crafted this reality.


This exhibition features composite photographs and artifacts from the Photographic Historical Society of Canada’s collections, spanning the rise of the technique in the 1870s to its decline by 1930. Alongside the work of Canadian artists who were integral to the foundation of this process, including William Notman and James Inglis, More Real than Reality includes never-before-exhibited images of life and leisure displayed in the historic setting of Campbell House Museum.