Surrealism in photography was one of the major revolutionary changes in the evolution of photography. Rather than art, photography was reviewed as a copying effort. Surrealism is the introduction of the ‘more than real’ images to the art forms.
Surrealism was a movement in the art and intellectual activities, emerged after World War I. Andre Breton, was the founder of the surrealistic concepts and he has gathered the influence from the Dande movement. Surrealism is actually the real expression of mental emotions, without any polishing. Andre Breton describes surrealism in Surrealist Manifesto, as the pure psychic automatism expressed in the real functionality of a person. Surrealistic art forms characteristically differ from the conventional forms in not having specific shape or idea. It can be the expression of basic human instinct and imaginative faculties of the unconscious mind. But, when surrealism comes to photography, the critics did not even imagine such a possibility. However, “Marquise Casati” by Man Ray, made a change to the belief, as it featured multiple eyes for the photograph. Even though, it was an accidental blurring, it proved the chances for the feasibility of surrealistic works.
Man Ray and Lee Miller are considered as legends in surrealistic photography as they were very successful to overcome the limitations of photography to create surrealistic images. Maurice Tabard is another famous surrealist, who had his own technique for surrealistic imaging. Hans Bellmer creatively used mechanical dolls to symbolize sexualized images, where as for Rene Magritte camera was the tool to make photographic equivalents of his paintings.
Surrealist photographs are described as the images, which symbolically represent dreams, night mares, intoxication, sexual ecstasy, hallucination and madness. The difficulty with photography medium is that it imbibes the reality, and often the real images cannot be sufficient to express such unconventional patterns. But, the famous surrealist photographers are able to fulfill the task since they can use the photographic techniques effectively. The ordinary snapshots, body photographs, anthropological photographs, medical photographs, movie stills, and even police photographs are manipulated to create the impression of surrealist images in the photographs.
Surrealism in photography is mainly performed using the different techniques. The differential techniques of light and lenses can itself be the primary technique for surrealism. Photomontage is one of the popular processing techniques, in which the several images are coupled together. In photogram, a photographic paper can be used instead of camera to imprint the image. The images produced by the flush of light can create amazing images that has a surrealistic look.
Multiple exposure is another technique for surrealism, in which the camera is clicked twice or more, without rolling the negative. The second image will be superimposed on the first image and the final product will be an undefined mixture of both. Cliche verre or glass negative is the surrealistic technique that uses negative coated from glass plate. Anyhow, solarization or Sabattier effect seems to be the most remarkable technique for surrealism. It produces dramatic effect of patterns through the flushing of the light on the photograph, while developing in the darkroom. It was discovered by Lee Miller, which have selective reversal of highlights and shadows. The light and dark areas with the distinct line of reversal make it most appropriate for surrealism.
Surrealism in photography has progressed much from its primitive stages. The new technology and lenses offer immense opportunity to the new generation photographers to portray their mental emotions in the frame of cameras.