20 MAR 2014
Third stop, SURREALISM
A BIT OF HISTORY
Surrealism as an art was founded in early 1920 by André Breton. The French artist laid the foundation of the movement in the manifesto published in 1924. The document defines Surrealism as “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 the thought, in the absence of any control exercised by reason, exempt from any aesthetic or moral concern.”
Surrealism emerged as a literary style, but rapidly spread to other arts, including painting and photography. Soon it became a global movement that came to stay.
According to Breton, Surrealism is a pure psychic automatism. Through this automation the artist tries to express how the human mind really works. The reason does not intervene in its manifestations and leave aside the moral or aesthetic concerns. That is why the dream world acquires considerable importance. Surrealist photography techniques captured the attention of great artists from painting, above all, Salvador Dalí.
‘Dali Atomicus’ by Philippe Halsman (1948)
Dali’s ‘Mae West Room’
Surreal photography is all about creating visual imagery that challengers our ordinary perception of reality. Placing human beings and characters in dream-like sequences and performing actions and activities that are physically impossible serves to stretch our imagination, and challenges audiences to think outside-the-box. From photographs that showcase characters sleeping mid-air to those that feature whimsical fairy tale-inspired elements, these surreal photographic captures feature ordinary elements in an over-the-top and exaggerated way. It is more about creating a world or image that goes beyond the physical world as we know it. It usually shows something which would be impossible in real life or tampers with the line defining what is real and what is imaginary.
Surreal Photography often involves regular compositions which have been altered by obscuring something or changing angles, perspectives and so on. The lighting and exposures are often played with to create ghostly forms and abstract shapes. Double exposure, solarzation, combination printing, collage, montage, rotation or mirror distortion are the most common ways to obtain to the surrealist effect.
Surreal = beyond the real
Here are some of the main exponent of Surrealist photography:
01 APR 2014 – EXPERIMENTING
And so I start my trip around experimenting. Despite being a massive fun of Dalí as a painter, I have to admit that if I was a photographer capable to create trend and tendency, this would not be my first choice. The ‘Dalí Atomic’ picture is however very inspiring; here is a copy I found on a film maker blog (http://despotfilm.wordpress.com/2010/05/10/de-lescano-photoshoot-inspired-by-salvador-dali/):
As usual I flick through my modest archive in search of material and I find a couple of shots that could be sort of similar…
I’m not in target just yet. I dont want to use photoshop at this stage, my plan is now using pictures that have not manipulated. Light painting is my first choice. I bought a plastic gun and after a bunch of different light painted pics, I decided to keep this one:
My usual hi-tech settings: the tele covered with a black cloth is my background, the kids commando set, no comments about. A simple LED torch created the smoke lighting effect. An amazing budget of $4 for this shot…
The plan is using some sort of distorted prospective or reflection for my next one before approaching the post option later on.
01 APR 2014
My first trial is copying the “Belgravia” shot:
What a failure. Everything is wrong; cropping, framing, exposure…not to mention that my living room is way too small to allow that shot. So, since I am using prospective distortion, I may just take advantage of another archive picture taken a couple of years ago in New Zealand (with a bit of self irony…):
Note that both Erika and myself are against the wall. The depth effect is given by the background painting. The old Roman toilets, Italians are always a step ahead!
And how about this:
this is what the real proportions are like:
Once again, many issues in the pictures, plenty of prospective distortion though. Enough of this now, let’s try a different approach.
Searching in the net for some more modern versions of Surrealism, I come across distinguished Swedish photographer Erik Johansson (Eraldo did show his work in class). He has created some very stunning digital artwork:
I wonder if I’ll ever manage to get even close to this. Although it is not quite surrealist and it is a copy of an existent movies advertisement, I still would like to show something that I created. Pretty much my maximum expression in post yet:
Another photographer that I have known due to the period I spend in Spain is photographer and writer Chema Madoz. I absolutely love his style!!! Very different from Johansson, Madoz style is obsessively precise, almost scientific. He applies a clean and delicate use of light and chooses a framing organised by the millimetre. As if he had wanted to turn away from the mess of the real, in Madoz world of secret items, his harmony reigns.
Ha ha ha! Gotyaaaa all!!! The last one in actually my version of one of his own. His high key, mine low key.
Time to move to digital now. See what I can come up with in post.
Surralism in post editing
First test is using the multiple exposures of my Nikon D800. What the camera does is automatically overlap two images. I find a very explanatory tutorial for Nikon users on this website: http://photoextremist.com/multiple-exposure-photography-tutorial . What Evan Sharboneau manages to do is pretty cool, this is one of his ‘selfies’:
Sara K. Brine (http://www.dylandsara.com/canon-5d-mark-iii-double-exposure-tutorial/) also rocks in Canon:
They make it look easy, the truth is very different. As Evan Sharboneau said, it takes tens or hundreds of trials to get a decent one.
Test one, selfie at Tafe:
Test two, Peter:
Not exactly the best ones I’ve ever seen.
Then, Eraldo suggest us to actually work on silhouette and explains us how to do it in post through PS. So we head outside and seek for silhouette and textures to merge later on in Photoshop. Here is the result:
At home I try with camera direct double exposure again, same negative result:
The texture has taken over the all image, detail of the eyes between the fingers looking at the camera have gone. Take 2, I try to focus a bit more on the eyes. I did this one twice and I kept the second version with my subject slightly shaky, it just fit in the context.
Back to the method that Eraldo suggested in class, different subjects. See if a can come up with something more interesting. I googled some pictures of the Opera House in silhouette to see if a manage something special:
Not really special at all. Then I try with one of my pictures to which I blend a different detail of the tales taken from Google, the Opera House shot belongs to me:
It’s actually ok. It’ve even moved it on my mac screen savers folder…
I guess that I am now over Surrealism, I have to admit that it is not my cup of tea. Although there is a lot of it out there that I really like, in my opinion Surrealism it is not versatile enough. Too much planing is involved in order to get a single shot, I am more of a straight photographer myself. Planning a picture is fundamental but to me it should result in a full selection of images, not a single take. I will take it as a source of inspiration in the way Bresson was interpreting it and I will also use it to create combined images where important components such textures fit within a much larges framing (just like this last one of the opera house). Cheers!