Everything You Need To Know About Surrealism Photography

A man with dark hair and a sunset in the background


In photography, surrealism is a technique that is used to create images that appear unreal or dreamlike. This approach often involves using everyday objects in unusual ways or unexpected contexts. Surrealist photographers may also use techniques such as photomontage and double exposure to create their images.

History of Surrealism Photography:

The history of surrealism in photography is closely linked to the history of surrealism in art. Surrealist artists were interested in exploring the subconscious mind and pushing the boundaries of what was considered acceptable in art. They were also influenced by ideas from psychoanalysis, which were just beginning to be explored in the early 20th century.

Types of Surrealism Photography:

There are two main types of surrealist photography:

Soft Surrealism:

This type of surrealism uses gentle, dreamlike images to create a feeling of disorientation or dislocation.

Hard Surrealism:

This type of surrealism uses shocking or bizarre images to jar the viewer and create a sense of unease.

Which type of surrealism photography is more popular?

There is no clear consensus on which type of surrealism is more popular. Some viewers prefer the dreamlike quality of soft surrealism, while others find the shocking images of hard surrealism to be more impactful. Ultimately, it depends on the preferences of the viewer.

Examples of Surrealism Photography:

A sunset over a body of water

Some of the earliest examples of surrealist photography are:

  • Man Ray’s “Rayograph” (1922), is an image made without a camera by placing objects directly on photographic paper and exposing them to light.
  • Salvador Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory” (1931), features melting clocks in a landscape.
  • René Magritte’s “The False Mirror” (1928), shows a man’s face reflected in an eye.
  • Max Ernst’s “Young Man at His Window” (1926), shows a man looking out of a window at a bird that has turned into a woman.
  • André Breton’s “Portrait of Gala with an Angel” (1932), features his wife surrounded by angel wings.

Some contemporary photographers who are working in a surrealist style include:

  • Sam Haskins, whose work often features unexpected juxtapositions of objects and people.
  • Jerry Uelsmann is known for his use of multiple exposure and photomontage.
  • Sheila Rock, whose images often explore themes of memory and loss.
  • Tim Flach, whose photographs of animals often have a surreal quality.
  • Erwin Olaf, creates staged scenes that explore human emotions.

How is surrealism used in photography?

Surrealist photography often uses everyday objects in unusual ways or unexpected contexts. This can create images that appear unreal or dreamlike. Surrealist photographers may also use techniques such as photomontage and double exposure to create their images.

Scope of Surrealism Photography:

Surrealist photography is still being created today. Many modern photographers have been influenced by the Surrealist movement and continue to create images that explore the subconscious mind and challenge traditional ideas about what is considered acceptable in art.

Tips to Create Surrealist Photography:

Here are some tips for creating surrealist photography:

  • Look for everyday objects that can be used in unexpected ways.
  • Use photomontage and double exposure to create unique images.
  • Think about the meaning of your images and what you want them to say.
  • Be patient and experiment until you find the right combination of elements.
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment and make mistakes. Surrealism is all about pushing the boundaries.

Challenges of Surrealism Photography:

One of the challenges of surrealist photography is that it can be difficult to create images that are both striking and meaningful. Surrealist photographs often rely on shock value to make an impact, but this can quickly become tiresome. Another challenge is that surrealist images can be difficult to interpret, as they often rely on symbols and metaphors that may not be immediately apparent to the viewer.

Points To Consider:

Before choosing surrealism photography, it is important to consider the following:

  • The type of surrealism you want to create. Do you want dreamlike images or shocking images?
  • The meaning of your images. What do you want them to say?
  • The techniques you will use. Do you want to use photomontage, double exposure, or other techniques?
  • The audience you are targeting. Who do you want to see your images?
  • Your budget. How much money are you willing to spend on materials and equipment?
  • Your skill level. Are you a beginner or an experienced photographer?
  • The time you have available. How much time are you willing to spend creating your images?
  • The resources you have available. Do you have access to a darkroom, Photoshop, or other editing software?
  • Your goals. What do you hope to achieve with your surrealist photography?
  • Your personal preferences. What kind of images do you like to create? What style of photography do you prefer?

Ending Notes:

Surrealist photography can be a fun and creative way to explore the world around you. To get started, consider the type of surrealism you want to create, the meaning of your images, and the techniques you will use. It is also important to consider your audience, budget, and skill level. Once you have all of this information, you can start experimenting and creating your surrealist masterpieces.

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