The modern medium of photocollage arose from the proliferation of photographically illustrated magazines and newspapers in the first two decades of this century. It came to prominence in the wake of World War I in the work of artists such as George Grosz, John Heartfield, and Hannah Höch in Germany, and Rodchenko and Gustav Klucis in Russia. By clipping illustrations from the press and reassembling them in unexpected combinations, they created a lively alternative to painting, whose socially charged imagery was rooted in the world outside the studio.
Among Rodchenko's most remarkable photocollages are the cover and illustrations that he made in early 1923 for Mayakovsky's poem About This or, simply, It (Pro eto). Expressing Mayakovsky's troubled state of mind as he endured a separation from his lover Lili Brik, the poem equates the intensity of their love with their revolutionary fervor, opposing both to the specter of dull habit and material comfort. The abrupt juxtapositions and shifts in scale of Rodchenko's collages aptly evoke the vivid imagery and poetic leaps of Mayakovsky's verse.
Through photocollage, Rodchenko first engaged photography as an extension of the graphic arts--as an inexhaustible resource of images which invited alteration, replication, and recombination. This irreverent, experimental approach to the medium continued when Rodchenko began to make photographs of his own.