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Surrealist photography

A term invented by Guillaume Apollinaire, Surrealism is a movement across all artistic domains: painting, literature, photography...

After the First World War, drastic changes took place in the art world. Disappointed by the way in which society was evolving, artists started to rebel. They broke free from the strict aesthetic rules of the past and moved further and further away from realistic representation. 

Among the reactionary groups of intellectuals are the Surrealists led by the charismatic André Breton, alongside Paul Éluard and Louis Aragon, to name but a few.

In collaboration with Breton, Max Ernst theorised a unique new way of thinking to describe the Surrealists in their manifesto. The idea consisted of exploiting the unconscious and making it a reality. In this way, the concept of dreams became a key aspect of the movement, as seen in the works of Salvador Dalí.

Surreal photography dates back to this 1924 manifesto. However, the Surrealists agree that the invention of the photographic process is in itself surreal. Indeed, capturing a fleeting moment seems like an impossibility. 

Recurring themes such as the female form, nudity and material objects are all prevalent in this genre of photography, having passed from written to visual form. 

The mirror is a major motif of Surrealism, it symbolises a portal to another dimension. In order to achieve social revolution, one must cross the mirror and go to the other side to uncover the secrets of an imaginary world. 

Above all, Surrealism is an exchange, the debate of ideas. For this reason, some photographers from outside the core group contributed to the theoretical debate, such as Bayer and Brassaï. But whilst they share the same values, shooting techniques often differ.

Take for example the ‘brulage’ or burning technique of Raoul Ubac and David Hare, whose images achieve their final effect after subjection to heat. Meanwhile, Man Ray used solarisation in the process of his nude photography, such as Primat de la matière sur la pensée in 1929. The effect of the veil around the subject is achieved through overexposure which causes a reversal of tone.

Although those artists may have been at the height of popularity in the movement, Surreal photography takes on a whole new direction thanks to the digital era, in which there are no limits on creativity. Allow Artsper to introduce you to their worthy heirs.

Formerly Helmut Newton's assistant, Alain Longeaud's poetic silver images transport us to the likes of a petrol station in space or the roof of a cathedral. 

Another modern Surrealist, Denis Darzacq, works in urban environments, showing people levitating in ordinary settings such as supermarkets. 

Similar to the surreal black and white photographs of the early 20th century, Dominic Rouse dismembers his subjects (often naked women) and portrays them in astonishing situations. It's all about context.

In a very different style, Philippe Ramette produces Surreal works that defy the laws of physics. His models walk on walls and explore the ocean floor as casually as they would be walking down the street.

Discover the art of Surrealist photography through the shots of well-known and emerging artists that will change your view of the world.


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Our recommendations Philippe Ramette, Exploration rationnelle des fonds sous-marins: promenade irrationnelle, Photography

Philippe Ramette

Exploration rationnelle des fonds sous-marins: promenade irrationnelle, 2006
39.4 x 31.5 inch
Photography

$12,416

Marc Le Mené, Chambre Mentale, Photography

Marc Le Mené

Chambre Mentale, 1998
13.8 x 13.8 x 0.4 inch
Photography

$2,343

Sean MacLeod, Waiting for the birds, Photography

Sean MacLeod

Waiting for the birds, 2011
39.4 x 39.4 x 0.4 inch
Photography

$3,514

Dingo, Lune, Photography

Dingo

Lune, 1999
18.1 x 23.6 x 2 inch
Photography

$1,054

Condé Nast, Racked Desires, Photography

Condé Nast

Racked Desires, 2014
31.5 x 24 inch
Photography

$3,479

Chen Yidan, Sunset time, Photography

Chen Yidan

Sunset time, 2014
27.6 x 27.6 x 0.4 inch
Photography

$1,616

Silke Seybold, Closet , Photography

Silke Seybold

Closet , 2012
19.7 x 19.7 inch
Photography

$1,171

Louis Blanc, TEstacEus, Photography

Louis Blanc

TEstacEus, 2011
39.4 x 39.4 x 0.1 inch
Photography

$2,108

Laurent Chéhère, Gainsbourg, Photography

Laurent Chéhère

Gainsbourg, 2012
47.2 x 47.2 x 0.8 inch
Photography

$9,371

Nicolas Tourte, Gift, Photography

Nicolas Tourte

Gift, 2012
27.6 x 19.7 inch
Photography

$2,343

Feng Kaixuan, Don de soi I, Photography

Feng Kaixuan

Don de soi I, 2015
23.6 x 35.4 x 0.8 inch
Photography

$4,217

Feng Hatat, Tamago 2, Photography

Feng Hatat

Tamago 2, 2014
19.7 x 15.7 x 0.4 inch
Photography

$703

Our recommendations Philippe Ramette, Promenade irrationnelle, Photography

Philippe Ramette

Promenade irrationnelle, 2003
39.4 x 31.5 inch
Photography

$12,416

Our recommendations Philippe Ramette, Exploration rationnelle des fonds sous-marins: la carte, Photography

Philippe Ramette

Exploration rationnelle des fonds sous-marins: la carte, 2006
39.4 x 31.5 inch
Photography

$12,416

Our recommendations Li Wei, Mirror Hong Kong, Photography

Li Wei

Mirror Hong Kong, 2006
39.4 x 39.4 x 0.8 inch
Photography

$9,371

Our recommendations Li Wei, Li Wei falls to Tokyo Palace, Photography

Li Wei

Li Wei falls to Tokyo Palace, 2006
39.4 x 39.4 x 0.8 inch
Photography

$8,199

Nicolas Boutruche, Sixtine Avenue, Photography

Nicolas Boutruche

Sixtine Avenue, 2011
43.3 x 43.3 x 0.4 inch
Photography

$3,397

Jorg Karg, Pont Neuf, Photography

Jorg Karg

Pont Neuf, 2017
31.5 x 23.6 x 1.2 inch
Photography

$1,698

Nicolas Boutruche, Les Ponts-Neufs, Photography

Nicolas Boutruche

Les Ponts-Neufs, 2010
39.4 x 78.7 x 0.4 inch
Photography

$4,920

Catherine Théry, On a volé la Pomme d'Adam_ Clin d'oeil à Magritte, Photography

Catherine Théry

On a volé la Pomme d'Adam_ Clin d'oeil à Magritte, 2015
45.3 x 29.5 inch
Photography

$3,748

Matthias Jung, When the gods came the world was a golden acre, Photography

Matthias Jung

When the gods came the world was a golden acre, 2019
19.7 x 19.7 inch
Photography

$996

Marc Le Mené, Chambre Mentale, Photography

Marc Le Mené

Chambre Mentale, 2003
13.8 x 13.8 x 0.4 inch
Photography

$2,343

Victoria Rodríguez Cruz, Familia 08, Photography

Victoria Rodríguez Cruz

Familia 08, 2015
3.9 x 5.9 x 0.4 inch
Photography

$351

Our recommendations Bertrand Noël, The Vase, Photography

Bertrand Noël

The Vase, 2014
29.5 x 19.7 inch
Photography

$1,874

Our recommendations Karine Marenne, Art Maid, Galila et Stephen Sack, Galila B.H.’s kitchen, Photography

Karine Marenne

Art Maid, Galila et Stephen Sack, Galila B.H.’s kitchen, 2012
23.6 x 31.5 inch
Photography

$1,874

Our recommendations Petros Chrisostomou, Wasted Youth (25 Ashbourne Ave), Photography

Petros Chrisostomou

Wasted Youth (25 Ashbourne Ave), 2008
39.4 x 31.5 x 2 inch
Photography

$5,271

Our recommendations Jorg Karg, Weight on their Shoulders, Photography

Jorg Karg

Weight on their Shoulders, 2017
51.2 x 41.3 x 1.2 inch
Photography

$3,385

Victoria Rodríguez Cruz, Familia 10, Photography

Victoria Rodríguez Cruz

Familia 10, 2015
3.9 x 5.9 x 0.4 inch
Photography

$351

Condé Nast, Cake and Diamonds, Photography

Condé Nast

Cake and Diamonds, 2010
47.2 x 36.2 inch
Photography

$5,107

Sean MacLeod, Lake of Tears, Photography

Sean MacLeod

Lake of Tears, 2007
39.4 x 39.4 x 0.4 inch
Photography

$2,928

Gilles de Beauchêne, Echec au Roi, Photography

Gilles de Beauchêne

Echec au Roi, 2010
39.4 x 59.1 x 2 inch
Photography

$4,100

Sean MacLeod, Maidens, Photography

Sean MacLeod

Maidens, 2010
39.4 x 39.4 x 0.4 inch
Photography

$2,928

Gilles de Beauchêne, Saint Michel Oublié, Photography

Gilles de Beauchêne

Saint Michel Oublié, 2016
39.4 x 55.9 x 2 inch
Photography

$4,100

N'Krumah Lawson Daku, Stories #27, Photography

N'Krumah Lawson Daku

Stories #27, 2012
35.4 x 23.6 inch
Photography

$4,217

Petros Chrisostomou, Untitled (Button), Photography

Petros Chrisostomou

Untitled (Button), 2010
13.8 x 10.6 x 0.8 inch
Photography

$1,757

Dingo, Nuages , Photography

Dingo

Nuages , 1990
18.1 x 23.6 x 0.4 inch
Photography

$1,054

Marie-Laure Vareilles, New York, Photography

Marie-Laure Vareilles

New York, 2015
39.4 x 39.4 x 1.6 inch
Photography

$3,748

Pilar Albajar et Antonio Altarriba, Vie Sauvage - Anillo, Photography

Pilar Albajar et Antonio Altarriba

Vie Sauvage - Anillo, 2008
23.6 x 31.5 x 0.4 inch
Photography

$2,108

Rocío Verdejo, Crashroom 2/6, Photography

Rocío Verdejo

Crashroom 2/6, 2015
27.6 x 19.7 x 0.4 inch
Photography

$1,288

Pilar Albajar et Antonio Altarriba, Vie Sauvage - El vinculo - Le lien, Photography

Pilar Albajar et Antonio Altarriba

Vie Sauvage - El vinculo - Le lien, 2008
23.6 x 31.5 x 0.4 inch
Photography

$2,108

Rocío Verdejo, Crashroom 6/6, Photography

Rocío Verdejo

Crashroom 6/6, 2015
27.6 x 19.7 x 0.4 inch
Photography

$1,288

Laurent Pheulpin, Chronos 3, Photography

Laurent Pheulpin

Chronos 3, 2016
15.7 x 23.6 x 1.2 inch
Photography

$1,464

Condé Nast, Time Trap, Photography

Condé Nast

Time Trap, 2013
31.5 x 24 inch
Photography

$3,327

Condé Nast, Lush Cart, Photography

Condé Nast

Lush Cart, 2014
47.2 x 35.8 inch
Photography

$5,107

Dominic Rouse, The Less Deceived, Photography

Dominic Rouse

The Less Deceived, 2000
15 x 12 inch
Photography

$703

Chen Yidan, Dreamland, Photography

Chen Yidan

Dreamland, 2014
27.6 x 27.6 x 0.4 inch
Photography

$1,616

Our recommendations Geert Lemmers, Tess, Woman of the moors, Photography

Geert Lemmers

Tess, Woman of the moors, 2015
51.2 x 39.4 x 1.2 inch
Photography

$2,226

Kirkis Rrose, Dissolution 3, Photography

Kirkis Rrose

Dissolution 3, 2016
23.6 x 15.7 x 0.4 inch
Photography

$879

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