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Surrealism in painting, street photography and cinema

February 3, 2019
Street photography surrealism

Surrealism is an artistic movement born in Europe in the early 1920s as an evolution of dadaism.

Here is Breton’s surrealist manifesto published in 1924: “Psychic automatism in its pure state, by which one proposes to express — verbally, by means of the written word, or in any other manner — the actual functioning of thought. Dictated by thought, in the absence of any control exercised by reason, exempt from any aesthetic or moral concern.”

Surrealism uses the creative impulse of the unconsious mind to create images in which different things, like objects, people, animals and natures are combined and juxtapposed in such way that resemble to a dream. In this article I’ll talk about surrealism in street photography, painting and cinema. Surrealistic works create the idea of dream: reality is distorted, images are weird and mysterious. The eyes try to decipher the complexity of the scene.

Surrealism and painting

Let’s see some surrealistic masterpieces in art, starting with surrealism in painting: Renè Magritte and Salvador Dalì.

 

“Surrealism is destructive, but it destroys only what it considers to be shackles limiting our vision.” (Salvador Dalì)

 

street photography surrealism

Salvador Dalì

 

street photography surrealism

Salvador Dalì

 

“If the dream is a translation of waking life, waking life is also a translation of the dream.”  (Renè Magritte)

 

Street photography surrealism

Renè Magritte

 

Surrealism and street photography

Surrealism has influenced also street photography. “Primary goal” is to take mysterious pictures, sometimes weird and sometimes similar to a dream. There are different techniques to reach this result like “cut-off heads”, “pieces” of people, flash, juxtappositions, covered faces, strange scenes…

Henry Cartier Bresson (HCB), founder of Magnum Agency, was the father of street photography. He was influenced by surrealism. HCB has taken many surrealist photos expecially in the first period of his “career” (the most artistic one). Let’s see some examples of surrealism in street photography looking at these pictures taken from the master of street photography Henry Cartier Bresson.

 

“Reality offers us such wealth that we must cut some of it out on the spot, simplify. The question is, do we always cut out what we should? ­”  (Henry Cartier Bresson)

 

Street photography surrealism

Henry Cartier Bresson

 

Street photography surrealism

Henry Cartier Bresson

 

Street photography surrealism

Henry Cartier Bresson

 

Another famous street photographer influenced by a surrealistic vision is Mark Cohen. Mark Cohen is famous for his surrealistic shots taken with a flash without looking in the camera viewfinder. His works are amazing. He had a different approach from HCB in shooting street photography. He used wide angle lens, flash, “cut-off tecnique”, blur and interactions with subject. His pictures are mysterious, strange, sometimes odd. Here is some surreal street photography from Mark Cohen:

 

Street photography surrealism

Mark Cohen

Street photography surrealism

Mark Cohen

 

street photography surrealism

Mark Cohen

 

A video example about Mark Cohen making street photography with his strange tecnique.

Another example of surrealistic photo taken by the Magnum photographer David Alan Harvey.

street photography surrealism

David Alan Harvey

 

Surrealism and cinema

David Lynch is a complete artist, but essentially famous as film director. Also David Lynch was influenced by surrealism in his cinema and works. From Twin Peaks to Mullholand Drive, Eraserhead, Lost Highway and so on… David Lynch’s films are full of visual metaphor, visions, dreams, mysterious people and worlds.

street photography surrealism

Twin Peaks directed by David Lynch

 

street photography surrealism

Twin Peaks, season 3 directed by David Lynch

Surrealism in Street photography, painting and cinema: parallelism

Let’s see now some parallelism among artists mentioned above; parallelism about surrealism in street photography, painting and cinema. These are just a few examples…

1. Juxtapposition

street photography surrealism

Renè Magritte

 

street photography surrealism

Renè Magritte

 

street photography surrealism

Mark Cohen

 

street photography surrealism

Joel Meyerowitz

 

street photography surrealism

Henry Cartier Bresson

 

street photography surrealism

Alex Webb

 

2. Light-face

street photography surrealism

Renè Magritte

 

street photography surrealism

Twin Peaks, season 3

 

3. “Back”

street photography surrealism

Renè Magritte

 

street photography surrealism

Mark Cohen

 

street photography surrealism

Henry Cartier Bresson

 

Salvador Dalì and Alfred Hitchcock

Spellbound is a psychological and noir thriller directed by the great Alfred Hitchock in 1945. In this film there was a famous collaboration between a surrealist painter like Salvador Dalì and the movie director Alfred Hitchcock, the master of suspence. Dalì helped Hitchcock in making some mysterious dream sequences. At first the dream sequence was about twenty minutes long but after it was edited to only two minutes in the final version of the movie. This scene has a wonderful surreal look and it is really important for the resolution of the plot in the film. It’s like a difficult puzzle, an enigma to resolve to have the final solution. Here is a wonderful frame taken from the film.

Spellbound (1945), directed by Alfred Hitchcock

 

Salvador Dalì and Magnum Agency

There were a lot of collaborations between Dalì and Magnum photographers. Here is most famous and wonderful surreal portrait of Salvador Dalì taken by the Magnum photographer Philippe Halsman in 1948. After dozens of shots here is the famous picture Dalì Atomicus:

street photography surrealism

Philippe Halsman

Surrealism in comic books

At the end of this article a “funny” encounter between Dalì, Magritte and Dyland Dog, a famous italian horror comic book by Sergio Bonelli.

Street photography surrealism

Street photography surrealism

 

Ps. I’m really sorry for my English but i’m italian and i do not even know that either. Anyway that’s all folks <3