About us
Movements, Styles, and Tendencies Dada and Surrealist Photography
Dada and Surrealist Photography Collage

Dada and Surrealist Photography

Started: 1919

Ended: 1960s

Dada and Surrealist Photography Timeline

Quotes

"I would photograph an idea rather than an object, a dream rather than an idea."
ray_man
"Photographic data... is still and ESSENTIALLY THE SAFEST POETIC MEDIUM and the most agile process for catching the most delicate osmoses which exist between reality and surreality. The mere fact of photographic transposition means a total invention: the capture of a secret reality."
Salvador Dali
"Photographers, operating within the terms of the Surrealist sensibility, suggest the vanity of even trying to understand the world and instead propose that we collect it."
Susan Sontag
"Surrealism lies at the heart of the photographic enterprise: in the very creation of a reality in the second degree, narrower but more dramatic than the one perceived by natural vision."
Susan Sontag
"Nothing proves the truth of Surrealism so much as photography. The Zeiss lens has unexpected faculties of surprise!"
Salvador Dali
"I do not photograph nature. I photograph my fantasy."
Man Ray
"If we are to generalize the aesthetic of surrealism, the concept of Convulsive Beauty is at the core of that aesthetic: reducing to an experience of reality transformed into a representation. Surreality is, we could say, nature convulsed into a kind of writing. The special access that photography has to this experience is its privileged connection to the real."
Rosalind Krauss
"The lens tracks the eyes, the mouth, the wrinkles skin deep... the expression on the face is fierce, sometimes tragic. And then calm - a knowing calm, worked on, flashy. A professional smile - and voilà! The hand-held mirror reappears, and the rouge and the eye shadow. A beat. Full stop. New paragraph."
Claude Cahun

KEY ARTISTS

Man RayMan Ray
Quick View
Artist Page
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Eugène AtgetEugène Atget
Quick View
Artist Page
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Hans BellmerHans Bellmer
Quick View
Artist Page
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
René MagritteRené Magritte
Quick View
Artist Page
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Dora MaarDora Maar
Quick View
Artist Page
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Marcel DuchampMarcel Duchamp
Quick View
Artist Page
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
More Top Artists

Synopsis

In post-WWI Germany and Paris, a ground-breaking practice of photography emerged, inspired by Dada's improvisational practices and the Surrealist's foray into the unconscious, dream, and fantasy realms. Whereas photography had been widely used as a tool to document reality, artists began to work with the camera and progressive techniques to create images jarringly detached from photography's original uses. These visuals oftentimes challenged the viewer's perceptions with a strong basis in conceptualism, conjuring the uncanny, ethereal, or unordinary. Other times, they emphasized the artist's intent, by presenting familiar images unlatched from their usual context, inviting new perspectives of the ordinary. This practice would spread to America and become a forebear to the decades-long exploration of the possibilities of the photographic image that remains common in today's art world.

Key Ideas

Artists during this time began to explore revolutionary photographic techniques, born from the Surrealist impetus toward discovering affinities in fragments of imagery. This included photomontage, collage, post-production manipulation of photos, staging, and the photogram.
Many of these photographers focused on presenting images grounded in reality but which challenged perception, or tricked the eye of the viewer into seeing what lay beneath, forcing a sense of distorted reality. These pictures, upon first glance might be deemed familiar, but would instantly require a double take.
Much of the photography of this time evolved Surrealism's combination of imagery and text in order to carry the artist's intention through to the viewer. By borrowing methods from the magazine and newspaper industry, these artists were turning their work into "advertisements" of the individual artist's mind.
Many art journals were birthed during this time, a perfect platform for printing these photographs, and a way to mass distribute these works of art to a populous which might otherwise not have access to them.

Beginnings

Dada and Surrealist Photography Image

Dada and Photography in Germany

The Dada movement was established in Germany after World War I. It attempted to create a new kind of art that was valued primarily for its conceptual properties rather than focusing on aesthetics or literal documentation. Dada quickly spread to France and the US (to Paris and New York in particular), but many of its proponents who worked with photography remained in Germany. One of the key ways in which the Dadaists attacked traditional art was through photomontage. Artists such as Max Ernst and Hannah Höch used scissors and glue to cut up found (and occasionally original) photographs from a number of sources and reassemble them, using contrast and juxtaposition to emphasize their message. The use of photomontage as an art form was one of the most important ways in which the Dadaists shook up the traditional aesthetic order of the art world.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Dada and Surrealist Photography Overview Continues

If you see an error or typo, please:
tell us
Cite this page

Content compiled and written by Anna Souter

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Movement Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Anna Souter
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
Available from:
[Accessed ]