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, PΓ©re 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. πŸ™‚

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. There are challenges and then there’s yours Tracy! This is certainly an opportunity for me to have fun and learn more about PS. My problem is my lack of creativity, but maybe I can stretch that too. I’m looking forward to seeing what our photographers come up with and what I will come up with!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Now the follow-up. Now, that I have read your post I see, especially my first two images fit perfectly to your idea.
      Having a look on yours, an additional subject line cam to my mind: have an eye on ……

      Very funny! 😊
      I like especially the tripple mask and the combination of an old photo with the two babies. They tell a stories πŸ‘πŸ‘

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, Tracy. What with having an 18 month old in residence at the moment, not to mention 100% more occupancy of our home than usual, I really don’t think I can make it happen . Sorry!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Surreal is what the world is right now, and making this into a bundle of possibilities with this challenge – is just a good way to tackle it. Brilliant examples! Thank you for hosting and giving us some extra thinking… to do. Love your strangers together especially, but all of them are surreal…I know my camera has got a double exposure button, and I guess many cameras have – that is a fun and simple way of experimenting with the surreal. Juxtapositions are also great. I am looking forward to seeing what the readers come up with! With or without Photoshop…

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I have learnt a lot about the history of photography from this process, Ann-Christine. You too provided inspiration for the theme through your double-exposed train photo that you posted a while ago. Thanks for inviting me to host and giving me the hurry along. A deadline is good for me, lol. I had a peek at your photos. Love ’em.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Personally I think surrealism wasn’t discovered. It was just named. As far as I can tell, my whole life has been surreal. If I paint representations of the world with me in them, they are always a little surreal but I think they’re photographic. Even the painting of me, Bear and the cranes which was absolutely a moment in my life, is surreal. I just wonder why Dali had to go so far out of his way, or Magritte, or Dora Mar — I don’t know. The whole thing is just fcuking bizarre. Think about it — even the wonder that I have a friend in Australia who made me (and mailed me!) a beautiful mosaic of a kestrel that is now sitting in my bedroom on an armoire that came from China in the 19th century by ship? The weirdness never ends (thank goodness). All that said, I think a person (and your photos are amazing) has to go out of their way to photograph something that looks surreal. I think the camera really gave us surrealism as creative expression.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I totally agree that surrealism existed well before the “official” movement. John from John’s Space included a photo of the painting, Harlequin as Paterfamilias, by Giavanni Domenico Ferretti, c. mid-1740s- c. 1760s, in his response. Very apt.
      I’ve met an incredible number of talented people, including you, from all over the world through this blog. I know I would not be as creative without them.
      Dora Maar’s story is an incredibly sad one. As a prop for Picasso, she didn’t get to pursue her own dreams.
      Also, I can’t think of a better examples of surrealist characters than the infamous Lamont and Dude. By the way, where are they at the moment?

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Well Tracy you have surely outdone all of use with this one! I absolutely loved your post although I must admit I counted on P/S rather than creative photography to create my response. Your eyes were perfect for adding a bit of macabre to our little challenge and they’re perfect for the task. And perhaps most importantly I definitely learned something and pushed myself out of my confort zone to respond. Fantastic job, thanks so much for leading us this week with your fun journey into the surreal!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you and my pleasure, Tina. I had great fun. And cheesecake. πŸ™‚ I must admit I was so thrilled with the eyes (and the cheesecake) that I gave them a starring role. I’ve learned a lot too, including about the history of photography. So interesting. Thanks to the team too for taking a chance on the theme. I am so pleased you embraced it with such enthusiasm despite your initial qualms.


    1. Thank you, Teresa. I think I would be pretty confounded initially coming across this theme. Maybe as you visit some of the other responses, you might be reminded of a photo that you’ve taken that would fit the theme. There is no need to do a Photoshop edit. Anyway, no rush or pressure. Come back if you think of something. πŸ™‚


  6. Thanks for a theme that I love. I didn’t take any new photos. I used to play around with motion blur and double exposure with my old film camera but it would take days to try and find those plus they weren’t that good anyway.
    Love your eyes and food πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Tish. I think everyone is having fun connecting to their inner artist.
      Ahem, I ordered the eyes when I had a panic attack about what I had just got myself into after suggesting the topic. πŸ™‚ I was struggling with another Photoshop project so I decided I needed a prop, any prop, lol. Then half the family came down with Covid so I was too busy cooking and disinfecting and had to meet AC’s deadline. It was a case of “Bother, I’ll just buy a cake and stick them on that.” Now you know my secret that I was not being creative at all. πŸ™‚
      PS. I feel the best I have since the big bushfires and the horrible mysterious virus I had in Feb 2020. Must be the gardening.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Glad you’re on the up, Tracy. And your eyeballs triumphed – in the face of so much domestic stress – which is surreal enough. I also had a weird mystery virus in Feb 2020. Quite a few people did.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Definitely some creative work with the eyeballs! I love how they are two different colors…but my favorite image is the Mask…That conjures many thoughts and could be considered awesome image representation of the title of your blog (if one wanted to really step out of the box creatively speaking)

    Liked by 1 person

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