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Certain photographs compel us to stop our mindless scrolling and stare at them for a while. They inspire thoughts, memories, and associations to run freely. Most importantly, they make us feel and remember things unique to us, things the photographer will probably never know. It's in these dreamy works of art that we discover reflections of ourselves, find new kinds of inspiration, and dive into a world that changes us in unexpected ways.
Surreal art is a genre of photography that does this particularly gracefully. A 20th-century movement created in France, surrealism spread smoothly and quickly, inspiring artists to release their unconscious thoughts and create something both disturbing and appealing. Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, and Joan Miró all influenced – and were influenced by – this movement, coming up with mind-boggling paintings reminiscent of unforgettable dreams and visions.
It was not only paintings and writings that surrealism affected; artists like Man Ray and Robert Rauschenberg gently moved photography to a new level by combining graphic design and collages with normal photographs of people and places. This, of course, can be found in countless photographs today, ranging from subtly distorted portraits to wildly composited landscape shots. Even though photography captures reality, it also documents the photographer's unconscious thoughts and hopes, creating results that are, to put it simply, exceedingly inspiring.
Here are 15 surreal photographs that redefine what it means to be a surreal photographer. Though each image has its own story, this collection has been carefully selected to tell a single story of thoughtful reveries, hope, and a beautifully promising future we all have yet to experience.
“Photography goes beyond the limits of reality and illusion. It brushes up against another life, another dimension, revealing not only what is there but what is not there.”
– Paolo Roversi
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“My studio is a place for chance, the dream, the imaginary to prevail. I give these forces as much space as I can.”
– Paolo Roversi
“Camera and eye are together a time machine with which the mind and human being can do the same kind of violence to time and space as dreams.”
– Minor White
In addition to being visually appealing, surreal photography merges fact and fiction to create a wholesome, yet wildly bizarre, reflection of the world. Photographs in this genre can be smartly edited compositions or raw photographs of natural phenomenons. They are often dreamy, thought-provoking, and outstanding. The worlds they create are exceedingly different to our own, yet eerily similar to our deepest emotions. By taking the time to appreciate them, we can find more opportunities to thrive as artists and thinkers. Thanks to this genre, we can discover new worlds, share our ideas with the help of our cameras, and compel others to find valuable stories in our own.
Which of these images stood out to you? Have you ever tried taking surreal photographs? Share your stories with us in the comments!