The Royal Photographic Society (RPS) has launched a competition challenging entrants to recreate a modern version of a controversial ?virtue and vice? photograph that shocked the public during Victorian times.

?Oscar Gustav Rejlander?s controversial work juxtaposed images of piety and debauchery to dramatic effect and caused a public sensation in 1857,? explained the RPS.

The image, called ?Two Ways of Life?, was printed from 32 separate negatives that had been combined in the darkroom to make a single picture.

Entrants are asked to digitally combine and alter images to create a ?modern version? of the composition.

Asked whether the society is urging entrants to get their friends to strip off for the shoot, a spokeswoman for the competition said: ?How an entrant chooses to recreate a contemporary tableau of Rejlander’s masterpiece is at their discretion.?

The rules of the contest state that the RPS ‘reserves the right to exclude any image from the judging session if it is deemed as inappropriate by The Society’.

Entitled ‘Modern Virtues, Modern Vices: Restaging Rejlander?s Two Ways of life (1857)’, the competition is open until 30 April 2009.

The winner will receive £500 cash and a year?s membership of the RPS.

Apparently, when the image was first shown in Scotland, it had already created such a stir that the left side of the picture had to be covered up before it went on display.

?However, Rejlander finally received a seal of approval when Queen Victoria bought a print for Prince Albert,? states Michael Langford in his book, The Complete Encyclopedia of Photography.

The RPS hopes the competition will help promote its forthcoming lecture and workshop series entitled: The Real Thing: Staging Manipulation and Photographic Truth.

For an application form visit

Picture: Two ways of life – Oscar Gustav Rejlander 1857

Credit: RPS Collection at the National Media Museum