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Surrealism in Photography Case Study


Surrealism, which started after the World War I, in photography is one of the indicators of most important revolutions that have taken place over the history in the area of photography. This article analyzes the concept of surrealism in photography.

The pioneer of this movement was Andre Breton. Surrealism is useful in the expression of emotions in ones mind without altering anything. This movement had a lot of similarities with the Dande movement.

The different forms of arts in the category of surrealism are intrinsically different from the conventional forms. This is because surrealistic arts lack a definite shape.

Surrealistic arts can therefore take different shapes such as putting across some of the human instincts or things that one imagines but remain in the subconscious memory.

Initially, many people were very skeptical about the possibility of the existence of surrealism and its success but it experienced a great breakthrough through the work of Man Ray.

However, it was after the publication of the work of Andre Breton, who was a poet, that surrealism was initiated as a movement officially. The publication of this poet was known as ‘Manifesto of Surrealism’.

This happened in 1924. The works of those who adhered to this movement were not based on reason. Instead, they saw basing their work on reason entirely was hindering their breakthrough to imagination; hence reason was shunned because it was a stumbling block to them.

They embarked on an adventure on how to use their creativity and this venture led them to a world characterized by dreams and other activities that can only be described as madness.

After emerging from this venture of obtaining pictures from their sub conscious, the images they came up with were applauded and even prizes given to the owners. They were characterized by physic connotations and were provocative in nature.

Surrealism is a movement that involves obtaining images from ones subconscious. The images are mostly characterized by psychic images that are provocative but still have a touch of beauty.

Walter Benjamin’s Aura in Photography and How This Has Changed Today.

The term ‘aura’ has to do with the tensions that are present in works of art in terms of time and distance. This article discusses the concept of ‘aura’ and how it was changed today.

The term ‘aura’, as part of Benjamin’s most critical contribution, is used in relation to tensions that characterize most of his works. Tensions that result from experiences in life such as experiencing lateness and being early at the same time are part of what comprises of his work.

He defines aura as something strange that intertwines the quality of space and time or a distance in terms of the proximity of something to another.

The central point in the concept of aura is that of something that can not be accessed, with a lot of value attached to it but is illusory and beyond anyone’s reach.

Benjamin argues that the concept of aura was mostly present in the artwork of nineteenth century but can no longer be traced after the commencement of modern photography.

He further explains that initially, photographs were more of imitations of paintings but with the introduction of technology, photography detached itself from painting and took a different direction.

This move resulted to the ruin of traditional concepts of fine arts. He notes that any image that is captured in a photograph has the capacity of being mechanically reproduced.

He views this characteristic of an image being reproducible as one that is very vital in photography. Benjamin also associates aura with distance in that, when an image is reproduced, the distance decreases.

The concept of aura was most pronounced in the artworks of the nineteenth century but seems to have been outdone after the introduction of modern photography.

Roland Barthes’s Stadium and Punctum and Photography.

The concept of stadium and punctum are addressed in details by Ronald Barthe in his book ‘Camera Lucida’. The book deals with the nature and real meaning of photography. The effects that a photograph has on its viewer are mostly tackled.

The object that is captured in a photograph is referred to as the ‘spectrum’ by Barthe. Stadium deals with the different interpretations of a photograph in terms of one’s culture, language or even political affiliation.

Stadium therefore deals with the different meanings that people attach to a photograph because of the diversity among people. Punctum on the other hand, refers to the effects that the photograph has on its viewer, for example piercing one’s heart or wounding.

It is this concept that also explains the emotions that arise as one becomes able to identify with what is in the photograph. Punctum therefore, is not an aspect that would interest anyone viewing the photograph, for example beautiful scenery of the sun setting.

On the contrary, it is something that one sees and others might not see when they look at the photograph. It is unique to an individual. It is seen as a way of developing individuality and is meant to capture the attention of the people on the little details that are overlooked by many people.

Barthe held the opinion that for any photograph to impress him, both stadium and punctum should be present. Barthe was concerned with the lack of punctum in many photos because many photos did not have the ‘pricking effect’ that punctum should produce.

Barthe believes that stadium and punctum are very important in any photograph.

Andre Bazin’s Opinion in Photography Trend.


Andre Bazin is a renowned critic of the film and the film theory. Bazin argues that the essence of arts such as painting and making of sculptures is to transform what is mortal into something immortal.

He argues that when a painter or an artist paints of carves an image of someone, what they are doing is trying to make the person live on years after their death.

He sees the work of artists as one geared towards preservation of life. In fact, Bazin views the artists’ work as an attempt to compete with death whereby the artist triumphs.

However, Bazin believes that what the artist represents in his painting is not the true outward appearance of the object but instead, it is a representative of the painters’ skills in painting.

He sees this as a mistake which painters commit because even though they attempt to reproduce the actual object through their work, they fail to do so.

This flaw in painting is what makes him believe that film and photography are more successful than painting and carving, in their attempt to reproduce the real thing.

His views are in favor of film and photography because they are able capture images of real objects and present them exactly as they are. He says that the only role a person plays in photography or film is in the selection of what they want to capture but the rest is not done by human hands like in painting whereby the painter does everything.

Bazin believes that photography is superior to painting because it has an advantage of the absence of the photographer in the finished work.

Gestalt theory and photography

Gestalt theory was developed by psychologists from Germany and Australia. ‘Gestalt’ is a term that means shape. The main agenda was to find out how people perceive and visually interpret things.

These psychologists discovered that the perception of things is usually affected by the proximity of the object from the viewer. In photography, it is important to bear in mind the positive and the negative constituents in the photograph.

The positive constituent is the person or the object being focused on while the negative is the rest of the things that are present while the photograph is being taken.

One should therefore make sure that the proximity between their subjects and them is such that the negative constituent will not affect the photograph and seem like it is the subject.

There is also the need for balance when doing photography because it affects one’s visual judgments. Equilibrium is therefore a vital constituent in any photograph.

The other useful principle according to gestalt theory is that of the figure or the background. This is classified as one of the most basic principles.

This involves the capacity to detach the various elements in a photograph on the basis of contrast. Isomorphic correspondence is the other principle of this theory.

This concept simply refers to the idea that people have a tendency to respond to meanings. Interpretation of a photograph and other works of art depend on people’s experiences in life.

Having a photograph with isomorphic correspondence is a challenge to many photographers. Despite this being a challenge, it is considered to be the aspect that distinguishes between a good photograph and a bad. Balance, proximity, figure or background and isomorphic correspondence are some of the principles of the Gestalt theory.

Landscape photography in 19th century.

Landscape photography is one of the activities in photography that has been in existence for a long period of time. This article evaluates the concept of land photography in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Daguerreotype and calotype were the most pronounced processes of photography in the 19th century. The first one was chosen by photographers who were taking photographs for commercial purposes whereas the second was preferred by people working in the landscape area of photography because of the ability to take a crisp and sharp photo.

The two processes also distinguished photographers with their social classes. Those who opted for the first method were seen as traders whereas those who practiced calotype were viewed as people who were educated and polite in the society.

Those who practiced this type of photography could afford to buy expensive cameras and other accompanying accessories. Landscapes of association were the most common choice for most photographers. As the 19th century drew close to an end, the search for aesthetic quality of photographs began.

After the First World War, a lot of changes were witnessed in photography because of the concept of modernism that had affected this area and brought a lot of change in the landscape.

Those who used to photograph landscapes slowly began to drift away from the kind of photography they were practicing which used to yield painterly effects, to the more modern form of photography that yielded different kinds of photographs that were clearer and had a tonal effect.

Photographs of landscape and nature continued to be the essence of photography, until the Second World War that photographers began to switch to color photography due to their quest for a colorful image of what they captured in the landscape.

There were a lot of changes happening in photography in the 19th and 20th century, most of which have been highlighted in the article.

Differences and Similarities between works by Ansel Adams and Minor White

Ansel Adams and Minor White are believed to be among the greatest contributors in the field of photography and especially within a scope of fifty years.

The two had a passion for photography and committed most of their time in it. Both have contributed significantly to the modern photography. Adams developed his passion for photography after attending several family trips with the parents.

Among the many achievements of Adams in photography include developing a department dealing with photography in a school in California, composing twenty eight books offering assistance to a museum in the department of photography.

Photography, according to Adams, should not only have the visual aesthetic but also a superb technique of printing. Beauty in terms of the visual and technical concepts in photography, are therefore the essence of photography, according to Adams.

Although Minor was not as famous as Adams, he also contributed significantly in photography. He explored his creativity to improve the quality of photographs produced.

One of his major beliefs that made him stand out from the rest is his belief that photographs possess a sacred and most importantly, spiritual aspects.

Although what people saw in the image was something important, Minor believed that the meaning underlying the image was more important. Minor was a deeply spiritual man, compared to Adams who is not as passionate as minor in matters of spirituality. Minor used photography as an avenue to pass across messages about his spirituality.

Both Adams and Minor left behind an unmatched legacy in the area of photography. The two of them were also involved at some point in their lives, in teaching some of their students these concepts and their students ended up being great photographers. Both Adams and Minor were great photographers who have affected modern photography.

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IvyPanda. (2019, March 27). Surrealism in Photography. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/surrealism-in-photography/

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"Surrealism in Photography." IvyPanda, 27 Mar. 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/surrealism-in-photography/.

1. IvyPanda. "Surrealism in Photography." March 27, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/surrealism-in-photography/.


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IvyPanda. "Surrealism in Photography." March 27, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/surrealism-in-photography/.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "Surrealism in Photography." March 27, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/surrealism-in-photography/.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'Surrealism in Photography'. 27 March.

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