How do you photograph dreams?

man ray profiel and hands 1932

The advent of the avant-garde in the early 20th century had a liberating effect on many photographers. Surrealism in particular was a godsend for those frustrated by the verisimilitude of photographs, by their adherence to realism. Man Ray (1890-1976) was the driving force behind revolutionising photography in this way, turning it into a poetic means to investigate the world and the depths of the human psyche. New techniques like solarization and negative prints produced dream-like transformations that could provoke (at least at that time) a kind of psychic shock. In an interview in 1964, Man Ray observed, “The [solarization] technique allowed me to…get away from banality…to produce a photograph that would not look like a photograph.” His ambition was to photograph dreams and ideas rather than things. Using the new techniques, parts of the body – hands, faces – metamorphosize into dream-like aureoles that are alluring and strange. The lines which trace the shape of the body parts are sensual – almost erotic contours that fingers might map.

man ray  study of hands (negative solarisation) 1931

Man Ray – Study of Hands (negative solarization) 1930

man ray l'oeuf et le coquillage 1931

Man Ray – L’oeuf et le coquillage 1931

2 Comments

Filed under Arts, Black and white photography, Hands, Photography, Surrealism

2 responses to “How do you photograph dreams?

  1. And then Photoshop was invented :p

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