According to André Breton, a famous French writer, artist and poet, the surrealist movement he founded aimed to resolve the contradictory conditions of dreams and reality into absolute truth, a "super-reality", or as he suggested, surreality.
Surrealism, an art movement established in Europe by Breton in the aftermath of World War I, attracted artists such as Salvador Dali & Man Ray, but to mention but a few. Man Ray, in particular, as a traditional medium artist, embraced photography as a medium and spent many hours perfecting his craft in the darkroom to deliver exciting artwork and surrealist impressions.
Many art scholars have proposed that photography is one of the most effective mediums at the hands of the Surrealists. Even though, before the days of digital, it proved to be quite challenging to deliver surreal compositions using double expose and multi-image printing in the darkroom.
And then, in 1990, when Photoshop entered the arena, Surrealism in photography was catapulted to another level. At the time, digital cameras were still not commercially available. The early pioneers of digital art had to scan negatives, slides, and prints to digitise them for Photoshop. Later in 1995, the first decent quality and extremely costly digital cameras were launched by Kodak, which once again added further creative potential to the mix.
Surrealism certainly defies logic and embraces the subconscious as it delivers bizarre juxtapositions with interesting compositions of random stuff.
Around 2003, in the early days of digital, I set out to create my first surreal artwork using Photoshop, which proved to be one heck of a challenge. Not only was the quality of digital cameras substandard in comparison to film, but computers were dreadfully slow and with Photoshop loaded even slower. Forgetting to save was a crime as I regularly lost hours of work as the computer just froze with its limited capability. I remember editing and making lunch while waiting for the application to complete.
The artwork in question was called "Dreams of a beggar" (see below). I wanted to show what a homeless person living on the street may dream about when they finally fall asleep after brushing away the memories of a difficult day of survival.
I created the illusion by using eight different photographs gathered from all over the country, which all had to be shot under similar lighting conditions. Funny, I had the idea of doing a series at the time, but after this artwork took over a month and a half to complete, my enthusiasm wore thin.
The beggar was a student of mine who I photographed in my studio with his dog, and the bench was a toy table from my daughter's dollhouse. The floor was photographed in the bathroom at my office, the ocean and waves in Arniston, and the sky and moon in Struisbaai. I then photographed the subway in Pretoria and the graffiti in Johannesburg.
Why am I telling you all this? Well, I just introduced a surreal module into my new Fine Art Photography Masterclass. Having to conceptualise and construct artwork for the lesson has brought back such special memories. Technology is different, but lighting, craft, and creativity remain the same.
I wanted to show my students how to create Surrealism by combining physical still-life photography with Photoshop editing in this new artwork.
I started with a landscape photograph as a background, which I had taken in Namibia in 2013. I then printed the picture and folded it into a box I had constructed out of cardboard. The distortion which was achieved by doing this gave the perfect start. I then raided the cupboard for random props to build a story.
I added paint onto an old tin of Round Trees Cocoa to make a tower (x-box). Toothpicks held together with superglue formed the giant ladder. Then, once painted, a glass-ceramic candle holder became a water reservoir. Once painted, Fennel harvested from my herb garden became strange trees in a surreal landscape. Some staples from my framing workshop transformed into a diving board. Lastly, I spray painted the background to create a stormy sky, and the photograph was then taken to Photoshop to complete the story. And so "Return of the Millennial" artwork was created.
So, only afterwards did the storm appear, causing a UFO to crash into the desert, which returned an abducted millennial back to a strange planet where he could view the landscape from the safety of his X-Box.
Ok, so you must be wondering what I am on. The answer is nothing at all! This scene is exactly what I saw while visiting Salvador Dali in a dream a few nights ago.
Until next time, stay safe and remain creative.
Our gallery prides itself as being the number one, dedicated, art photography gallery on the continent. Martin Osner opened the doors in 2010 in celebration of twenty-five years of being behind the lens. We showcase a curated selection of high-quality social documentary, landscape, and abstract art as well as original mixed media artworks where photography has been included as part of the creative process. We are committed to exhibiting high-quality pictures and focused on offering outstanding customer service by ensuring an unforgettable experience both in-store as well as online.