Surrealism in Photography

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by david_hermandy, Dec 1, 2003.

  1. I had a confuse betwen surrealism photography and fine art photography,
    when a photo could be categorized as surrealism ?
    They say Man Ray photos as surrealism but I think not all the photos,
    is there any criterion for surrealism photography?

    Thanks for the comments
  2. I guess the photo would have to follow the definition:


    n : a 20th century movement of artists and writers (developing
    out of Dadaism) who used fantastic images and incongruous
    juxtapositions in order to represent unconscious thoughts
    and dreams
  3. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    Dictionaries do a lousy job defining surrealism. I think it's a bit beyond their capabilities.
    Andre Breton, who more or less invented surrealism defined it thusly:
    SURREALISM, noun, masc., Pure psychic automatism by which it is intended to express, either verbally or in writing, the true function of thought. Thought dictated in the absence of all control exerted by reason, and outside all aesthetic or moral preoccupations.
    This was extended to include visual expression. Breton was a writer.
    You can read the entire Surrealist Manifesto here.
  4. Henri Cartier -Bresson thought that he was a surrealist. Robert Capa agreed with that
    assesment but told HC-B that he'd should just call himself a photo-journalist rather
    than confuse people -- and just continue doing what he would be doing anyway.
    Man Ray was as much a painter as he was a photographer.
  5. It may be tough to locate, but you might find this book interesting; "Dada Photomontagen". It's written in German, but there are some fascinating pics by Man Ray, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Kurt Schwitters and many more...really ground breaking stuff.

    Does anybody know if there is a German version of I have no idea where I got my copy.
  6. This was a two-way street with more influence on surrealist painting than photography. The photographic work of Moholy-Nagy (photograms), Man Ray (rayographs/photgrams), and Alvin Langdon Coburn (vortographs)(to name a few of the many) was a direct influence on surrealist painting (Max Ernst, Wolfgang Paalen, Salvador Dali, Oscar Dominguez, Marcel Jean, are a few who directly sought to develop photographic qualities in their work - often developing specific techniques to do so, e.g. 'frottage', 'decalcomania' and 'fumage'.)

    I think the surrealist influence on photography is more in terms of shaping the sensibility of photographers exposed to 1920s/30s Paris. Bill Brandt, Kertesz and Brassai could be added to HCB. Certainly Brandt and Kertesz have produced surrealist photographs(e.g. Kertesz's drooping tulip, Underwater Swimmer 1917, Distortion series of 1933, etc, similarly Brandt's beach nudes and much of his work throughout his life).

    While the work noted above is 'out-of-the camera' imagery, the work of Pete Turner and Uelsman might be seen as modern surrealists though obviously using different techniques.
  7. Most of us uneducated masses have no notion of surrealism as an art 'movement', since it passed into oblivion decades ago, out of the public eye, and art education is sorely lacking in the US. (I include myself in that monicker "uneducated".)

    However, I can see an aspect to photography that makes it perhaps the most surreal of all art forms (..or can be..). And that is the assumption of reality inherent in a photograph. The implication that the camera records truth is the greatest tool of deception to be used by the surrealist photographer.

    One aspect of this that pervades western culture is the advertising genre. Here, surrealism abounds, yet in a manner that goes without notice by many, perhaps because to be artfully critical of advertising is tantamount to blasphemy, in the context of the religion of mass consumerism.

    Advertising is pure surrealism because it brings into visual form the unconscious desires that we as consumers take for granted when we are bombarded at every angle by marketting.

    Regarding the confusion between "fine art" photography and surrealism: I don't think there's such a thing as "fine art". There's art for commercial consumption, and then there's the work that artists produce, out of a life dedicated to an aesthetic. Sometimes the two overlap, which can be good; often it doesn't. Such is the problem with words as labels.

    Perhaps we should all wear a name tag, like the ones they give out at conventions: "Hi - my name's ____________ and I'm an artist". Now that would be surrealistic!
  8. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    My name tag says "Hi, I'm Spike and I'm a surrealist."
  9. My name tag says: "Hi, I'm Confused... what is an Artist?"
  10. my name tag says, "Im a doofus."
  11. I refuse to wear name tags.
  12. In the marketplace, fine art photography is anything that you didn't get paid for in advance of the exposure. Fine art photography makes it's money on the wall. Fine art photography is the surest way to ruin. Fine art photography is what comes as the result of a process of curiosity, exploration and enlightenment.

    Surrealism is a very interesting school of thought from the early 20th C. It is actually, like the other schools of though, very very interesting because it was a reflection of it's times, a reaction to and influenced by the popular culture. Dreams and the subconscious, politics, social mores and the sciences. It was reactionary, cutting edge stuff and it produced much beauty. But most of all, for those members of Surrealism it represented what all art movements meant to their pracitioners. Freedom.
  13. My name tag says: "the fish!"
  14. My name tag says "Lurker"
  15. great new source on this subject

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