Essay Sample on Surrealism in Photography

Posted on October 13, 2009

Photography enriches our lives in many ways. A creative photographer is one who selects and captures qualities in their subject that make the picture artistic rather than plain and common. Ways of making photographs creative and more interesting can be by using different techniques and art movements. Surrealism is a movement in art that attempts to express the subconscious mind. It is a style that shows strange objects and shapes like those in dreams and fantasies.

During the period of 1928, the surrealist movement within photography was in what was known as its transition from an intuitive to a reasoning phase. Surrealism allows the viewer to enter a realm of dreams by conquest and normatively. Some take the history of photography to embody the political potential of surrealism in a variety of ways. They replace the notion of ‘photography as an art’ with the idea of ‘art as photography’. It allows a window and everlasting view of the surroundings. Surrealism hoped to accomplish similar achievements, but instead of the surroundings around people, it is the surroundings in their dreams and fantasies. It was a way of expressing what a person sees that others can’t. Photography could be seen in a special and interesting way, with the surrealists aimed at restoring the interest and quality to photos with an added magical concept to everyday objects and images.

One great photographer who used the method of surrealism and was able to capture images that appeared to be from dreams and fantasies was Kevin Wilson. He has been doing photography for many years and states that “all my photographic work is dream inspired”. (Quote: The surrealist look at art). Like many other surrealists photographs, Wilson attempted to recreate the feelings, anxieties and emotions evoked through his dreams. Kevin worked with digital photography for many years and then begun experimenting with other methods such as pinhole cameras, solarisation, photogram, photomontage, glass negative and double exposure. Most of these techniques provide an unpredictable and hazy nature which is ideal for recreating dream settings.

The pinhole camera is considered a very simple technique. There is no need for a lens just a light proof box with a pin hole opening that allows light to hit a sheet of film. There is a lack of control which means you can never be sure how the final image will look. This technique provides a dream like quality and the image taken can be difficult to comprehend. Another technique is solarisation, it is the result of shinning light onto a developing photograph in the darkroom. The effect is a selective reversal of highlights and shadows where parts of the image are positive while other parts are negative and this can leave a distinct line where the reversal has occurred. It can produce dramatic effects of light and dark. A photogram is created without a camera, it is made by placing an object directly onto or holding it above light sensitive paper in a darkroom and then exposing it to light. Photomontage consists of combining several photographs together for each print. It is an ideal method for unifying unrelated elements producing images that have a dream like quality. Glass negative is a photographic print that is made from a design drawn onto a glass negative. Usually a drawing is scratched onto a coated glass plate that was then contact-printed onto sensitised paper. Double exposure is a film negative that has two separate images in the same frame. The photographer takes one photo, then focuses on another object and takes a second photo without forwarding the film. These are just some of the different techniques that the surrealist photographers use to create the dream and fantasy like images.

Kevin Wilson was a self-taught photographer, therefore everything he knows and knows about photography has come through a process of trial and error. This has given him the opportunity of having a great deal of freedom. Since he was unaware of the depth and knowledge involved with photography, when he received his first camera he basically made up his own ways to suit the subject matter. When following an art movement such as surrealism within photography it was a lot easier for him to just forget any of the rules involved with photography and follow whatever method was necessary. Wilson is using photography and surrealism as a way to explore his own emotions and dreams.

The art movement of surrealism is quite a difficult one to follow. Though it does offer photographers, such as Kevin Wilson a way of exploring and sharing his emotions and dreams. Through his photography all these emotions, anxieties and fantasies are able to surface and he can show people what he is going through and the experiences he is experiencing.

Though surrealism was a popular art movement many, many years ago, it is only recently been picked up by photographers and their digital imaging. It is a great way of express what you are feeling and thinking to the onlookers of the photographs.

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