Oscar Gustav Rejlander

Oscar Gustav Rejlander's Two Ways of Life (1857) was, in the words of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art ''one of the most ambitious and controversial photographs of the nineteenth century'.

The picture is an elaborate allegory of the choice between vice and virtue, represented by a bearded sage leading two young men from the countryside onto the stage of life. The rebellious youth at left rushes eagerly toward the dissolute pleasures of lust, gambling, and idleness; his wiser counterpart chooses the righteous path of religion, marriage, and good works.

Because it would have been impossible to capture a scene of such extravagant complexity in a single exposure, Rejlander photographed each model and background section separately, yielding more than thirty negatives, which he meticulously combined into a single large print.

For the first time, David and Roy, from the Wolverhampton Photographic Society's Photographic History Group,have produced a detailed explanation and dissection of the photograph showing how Rejlander may have compiled it.  

The link is made with their kind permission.