Surrealism – in photography as well?

We’re all familiar with names like Salvador Dalí, Max Ernst or René Magritte and without thinking we categorize them as surrealism in art. We’ve often seen paintings like “The Persistence of Memory”, “Celebes” or “The Son of the Man” and these impressive works are stuck in our minds (or at least in my mind). Melting clocks and an apple in front of the face of a man in a suit are images I think of when I hear about surrealism. However, this artistic style from the 1920s is more than “just” paintings, graphics and sculpture. In this period even writers, filmmakers and photographers were influenced by dreams, the subconscious, the absurd and the fantastic and they were all working with these surreal topics.

Besides the documentary value of photography artists began to focus more and more on the different possibilities of the medium in the 1920s. With the means of photography they wanted to create pictures showing our emotional world and what we are inside. The first photos of the imaginary were taken in the New Yorkan artistic group of Marcel Duchamp. The idea becomes more important than the subject, so why shouldn’t photography be used as well to give a new meaning to things? What was decisive for the inclusion of photography in the surrealist movement was the encounter between Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray in 1913. Coincidental, uncertain and unexpected things became a key motif of aesthetic expression. Both artists had discovered a new means of expression for themselves with which they were able to give an immediate effect on light and movement and thus on the coincidental and abstract.

However, even experiments carried out in darkrooms count among photography inspired by surrealism. With the help of mechanic or chemical means photos were modified, montages were made, elements were isolated or granulation was added.

For the first time there were attempts of double exposure, thus allowing more creativity in general. I’ve found some of the most famous surrealist works in photography for you. Man Ray, Raul Hausmann, Herbert Bayer and Herbert List count among the most influential names in this movement.


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