I was recently invited by the Lens-Artists team to be a guest host of the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge, and now, finally, my turn has arrived! I am so excited. I’ve chosen the theme of surreal for this week’s challenge. I think of that word each time I exclaim: “Has the world gone mad?” It’s bizarre. Some might even say, “surreal“. It was therefore no surprise that a century ago, at another time of great societal upheaval, surrealism as an artistic and intellectual movement emerged. Photography too had its place in this avant-garde art form with notable photographers such as Man Ray, Dora Maar, Maurice Tabard, Raoul Ubac, Toshiko Okanoue, Florence Henri, Claude Cahun and Angus McBean, among others, arguably being among the very first lens-artists.

Eye To Eye
(Dora Maar, one of the pioneering lens-artists, had a reputation for the disconcerting and macabre. Her 1936 work, Pére Ubu was a closely cropped photo of a mysterious creature thought to be an armadillo fetus in formaldehyde. Needless to say, this is not her photo.)

For “surrealist” photographers unadulterated reality is not art. Early surrealists saw art residing in the imagination, in a place unconstrained by conscious thought and convention. They believed dreams could unlock the unconscious, so dreams were a valued source of artistic inspiration. This explains why photographs in the surrealism-style often have a dreamlike, random quality. Even so, the unconscious mind is not a vacuum. Its workings are deeply rooted in earthly cares and desires. Perhaps that is why modern surrealism art strives to unite fantasy and reality, and emphasises the juxtaposition of the rational and the irrational. Sounds like an advertisement for Photoshop to me. 🙂

Triple Masked
For a few weeks, our household was stuck in the never-never of Covid quarantine.
(In-camera multi-exposure, converted to black & white in Photoshop.)

Anyway, BP (Before Photoshop), techniques used by surrealism practitioners included: motion blur and distortion, unusual camera angles and rotation (see Eye To Eye); manipulating images with mirrors and reflections; double-exposure (see Triple Masked); playing with light and colour (see Take Me To Your Eater); and photo montage and collage. Artistic collaborations were encouraged to generate spontaneous and surprising results (see Down Yonder). Spontaneity, however, was often sacrificed in pursuit of a bizarre image; props were a feature and elaborate sets built.

These techniques were used to juxtapose the illogical and logical, contrast the absurd and every day objects, depict the ordinary in unusual ways, or embed fantasy in reality.

My Eyes Are Bigger Than My Belly
(My Willie Wonka ‘Pure Imagination’ moment. Created during our Covid isolation with glass eyes that I bought online. And a shop-bought fancy cheesecake. Only the eyes remain. It’s a shame that these eyes couldn’t see that the photo wasn’t actually in focus!}

With photo editing all pervasive now, it seems that real life and surrealism have finally merged. What do you think? Should we have some fun now? I wasn’t kidding when I said that surrealism was an advertisement for Photoshop. If Photoshop is not your thing, then you can still use old-fashioned photographic techniques to take you beyond reality. Notice the unusual and take a snap. Cut up a photo and re-assemble it, then photograph it again. Use whatever you happen to have at your disposal.

Strangers Together
(My 2am phone photo effort. This is straight “out of the box”. I like the hand shadow over the pair who had Covid at the time. Coincidence or some strange force?}
Take Me To Your Eater
(Edited in PS. No further comment necessary.)
Down Yonder – Collaborative effort between Tracy and Ann-Christine

As you have probably gathered, Covid visited while I was preparing for our challenge so I didn’t have time to go crazy with examples. Exploring the mysteries of photo montage, superimposed images via layers, etc, was beyond me at the time. Fortunately, our regular Lens-Artists host, Ann-Christine, came to the rescue in our joint photo (see Down Yonder).

Before letting you have your fun, I would particularly like to thank the regular Lens-Artists team for giving me the opportunity to host this week’s challenge and to eat cheesecake in the process. Thanks also to Andre of My Blog-Solaner and to all of those who responded to his Summer Vibes challenge last week. What a summer salad of riotous colour, stormy skies and cerulean seas we saw! Next week, Sarah Wilkie, blogging at Travel with Me, will be our guest host. Sarah’s theme is Three Favorite Images.

It is time now to create some marvellous surrealism mayhem with photos that we can all enjoy no matter what sort of day we might be having. We look forward to seeing your responses. Please remember to link them to this post, and to use the Lens-Artists tag to help us find you. Until then, please stay safe and be kind.

Kind Regards.

Interested in joining the Lens-Artists Challenge? Click here for more information.

Click here for Photoshop tips on how to make surreal photos.

165 thoughts on “Lens-Artists Challenge #209 – Surreal

      1. Well, I have to own up to the fact that all thes images were taken some years ago….I don’t have the energy to create new stuff as often….

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  1. Great topic – and great examples! I love the chocolate giving me the eye – some (surreal) truth to that picture! Thanks for hosting this Challenge.

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