History of Photo Mosaics

| 10 Comments | 1 TrackBack

My work on a 1992 Kodak television commercial led me to invent the idea of assembling meta images out of mosaics of smaller, often thematically related images - Photo Mosaics.


The computer animation department which I ran at R/Greenberg Associates in Manhattan was called upon to create the illusion of a stadium full of "flipping cards" for a 1992 Kodak television spot. (dir. John Clive for agency Young & Rubicam)

Once I developed the necessary software, I became interested in pursuing other uses for it.

I was aware of the work of artist Chuck Close, who had been creating large faces out of arrays of swirling abstract images, and I wondered if I could do something similar, only with hundreds of actual photographs.

My goal was always to use hundreds or thousands of tile images. Initially, however, this option wasn't in the budget. We used highend Manhattan prepress agencies in order to acquire our images then, and they charged -- if you can believe it -- $250 per scan. Since getting a slide digitally scanned was so expensive, I was often limited in the beginning to a mere 6 or so images, at a cost of $1500! This is one of the disadvantages of being first.

With those kinds of budgetary constraints, I had to design the software so that if fed an insufficient number of source photos, it would cause each photo to do color-corrected "double duty" to fill out the larger photo.

Above is the first such image produced by my software. It was created early in 1993 as a poster for a then yearly event called Live From Bell Labs. In this whimsical composition designed by Ryszard Horowitz with additional photshop compositing by Robert Bowen at R/GA Print, Nobel laureate Arno Penzais juggles objects on the left while Penn Gillette of Penn & Teller balances the photo mosaic on his nose.

Each photo is mapped with transparency-controlling alpha channel onto a flat card, allowing for the off-axis 3D overlap effect you see here.

We could tell right away that the technique was going to be popular, and we started getting requests for "themed" compositions.

I created this custom image at the request of editor Rita Street for the Winter 1993 issue of Animation Magazine. Notice the coffee cups and reels of film (and giant floppy discs!) -- all tools of the trade for the animator of 1993.

This image was also reprinted in the November 1994 issue of Wired Magazine, p. 106.

1 TrackBack

More on Photo Mosaics from grockwel: Research Notes on January 13, 2005 2:25 PM

I got an e-mail from Joseph Francis drawing attention to a blog entry about pioneering work he did on Photo Mosaics. He was following up a post here on Photo Mosaics. Digital Artform is the name of the blog, and... Read More


Amazing.... I'm talking to an editor I know about you. There's a geat book just waiting to be done.


Whats your name and can I have an email address I have a question regarding this article?

Sure thing. It's in my comments, and I've just added it to the banner at the top of every page. Hit reload on your browser if you don't see the new banner yet.

what software can i turn my images in to photomosaics with?

Back in the early 1990's I used software of my own invention to create photo mosaics, and I've never tried anyone else's software for that purpose, but if I were you I might give AndreaMosaic a try.


goods look

Id love to create similar things.Q Is there a programme available that will sort and paste small photos to create the larger picture

Hi, I was wondering what you thought about the US Patent Office granting a patent to Robert Silvers and Runaway Technology, Inc. for creating digital photo-mosaic?

Apparently your prior art would invalidate the patent wouldn't it?

One software project has already closed their doors after legal action being threatened by the patent holder (according to them). http://www.abundantmedia.com/centarsia/

Myself and others are interested in developing photo mosaic applications but these rather silly patent is a bit of a problem. If you felt like submitting information about your prior art, the patent number is: 6,137,498


I'm happy to discuss this with you in more detail.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by published on December 12, 2004 1:46 PM.

Comparative Anatomy was the previous entry in this blog.

Transparency Mapping and Matte Lines is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.