Surrealism is the mix of reality combined with dream and the imagination. This art form created surprising and amazing fantastical images, things that we know break the accepted reality. The images make the viewer the question and change the senses of conventional perception. The mix and blurring of possible and impossible, illusion and truth, the ordinary and extraordinary.

Early Surrealist photography

Surrealism as an art movement started in the 1920’s. Photographers’ like Man Ray were pioneers of Dada and surrealism art movement in photography. Man Ray was friends with many of the great surreal artists such as Salvador Dali. Man Ray had

Many Ray experimented with photographic techniques to create surreal photographic effects such as solarisation that gave the subjects a halo effect around the models. He also created surreal imagery in his photographs.

Some of his famous photographs such as the Violon d’Ingres, in this photograph he recreated in photography the painting of the the Bather of Valpincon by Ingres and added the f holes of a violin on to the back of the model.

The Violon d’Ingres, 1924 by Man Ray
Glass tears, 1932by Man Ray


Man Ray also took many photographs of his contemporary surreal artists friends like Marcel Duchamp.

Marcel Duchamp, 1918, A regarder d’un oeil, de près, pendant presque une heure, To Be Looked at (from the Other Side of the Glass) with One Eye, Close to, for Almost an Hour. Photograph by Man Ray, published in 391, July 1920 (N13)


Salvador Dali an acknowledged leader in the surreal art movement not only created canvas paintings and sculptured objects, but with the aid of photographers such as Philippe Halsman created surreal photographic compositions which Dali often appeared in.

Dalí Atomicus, 1948 by the photographer Philippe Halsman


Salvador Dali and Philippe Halsman – the making of In Voluptas Mors, 1951



The early pioneers of surrealism were not only imaginative, but had to be technically very accomplished because compositions would have to be constructed by careful cutting and combining picture elements from multiple photographs and negatives to build the final surreal photograph as can be seen in the complex photograph Dalí Atomicus, by Philippe Halsman.

Max Ernst and Dorothea Tanning were famous surrealists the photograph shows how they were playing with scale and perspective to create unusual images. The photograph below was taken by Lee Miller a famous photographer who had worked with Man Ray in Paris.

Max Ernst and Dorothea Tanning, Sedona, Ariz, 1946 by Lee Miller


Hans Bellmer an artist of created jointed life size dolls, some with only partial arms and legs that could be manipulated in to positions and placed in strange surrounds that were photographed to create the surreal images.

by Andre Kertesz


Another early leading surrealist photographer was Andre Kertesz. In the 1930s Kertesz was keen to create surreal images by the distortion of images using mirrors and optics to create the distortions.

Distortions by Andre Kertesz


Pendulum, Distorted 1938 by Andre Kertesz



Modern Surrealists

It is the creative ideas that make surreal photographs possible. The change in photographic technology to digital photographs and image manipulation software has made surreal imagery very popular, photographers experiment to change their photographs into something unusual, abstract or surreal.

There are many modern surreal photographers that show creativity, surprise and imagination and humour. The possibility of surreal photographs is made possible for many more people that have learnt and experimented with image manipulation software like Photoshop that has many filters and effects included within the software. Some of the effects possible to transform a photograph to look like a painted piece of art.

Some modern surreal photographers I have discovered and find their work interesting, fascinating and inspiring. Their art work has sometimes been used in advertising campaigns because they are so imaginative and different, that makes the viewer look twice.

Oleg Oprisco

Oprisco is a Ukraine fine art photographer; he uses different perspectives and alters the viewer’s perception of what they are looking at, this is how he creates his surreal imagery. In the photograph below the model is made to look like they are sewing fields together or decorating and creating with fabric the field.

by Oleg Oprisco


In the next two photographs Oprisco shows his sense of scale and perspectives. The ingenious use of props and imagination make the photograph when viewed display a sense of humor and irony.

by Oleg Oprisco


by Oleg Oprisco


Anka Zhuravleva – Moscow raised and based in St. Petersburg Zhuravleva is an inspiring, awesome artist and photographer. Her photographs have a strong artistic illustrative qualities that take the image to a surreal composition, the mix of reality with the abstract or unusual.

The origami boats like butterflies caught in the models hair in the photograph, the dreamy soft focus gives a dreamlike quality.

by Anka Zhuravleva


The next two photographs appear to be on a theme of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ that looks to be from a scene out of “Alice in Wonderland”. Alice looks to be falling with the table chair, it sitting tea set and tea cups falling. The second photograph, a more modern dressed and mature Alice looking slightly bored pouring a cup of tea whilst falling. The stuffed toy white rabbit on the floor is the ‘joke’ to make the viewer think that this is associated with “Alice in Wonderland”.

by Anka Zhuravleva



by Anka Zhuravleva


Zhuravleva photographs are fascinating, the perception of floating and falling breaking the normal view.

by Anka Zhuravleva



by Anka Zhuravleva


by Anka Zhuravleva


Lara Zankoul –

Lara Zankoul is a surreal conceptual photographer photography. Zankoul created a series of interesting images creating staged sets in a tank that were half filled with water. The models were photographed so that the effect of submerged floating clothes mixed with the formal well-dressed models looking as this was ‘normal’ added to the rich surreal images.





The addition of the masks add to the surrealism of the photographs.



Tommy Inberg A Swedish born photographer. Inberg creates his images using digital photography to create his images.

The image ‘Inside’ shows one man standing centre, and facing in the opposite direction to all the others, this shows a sense of defiance or independence. The man is standing in a pose reminiscent often made by the pop singer Michael Jackson, head down and face hidden by a hat. Hands grabbing his jacket. The hands make you look to his chest where the model is revealing a clockwork mechanism.


Still Standing is another surreal image of a man trying to hold back a giant shoe from treading the man under foot. The imagery also uses popular culture references to Michael Jackson with one of his dance move poses.



The wall keeps a common theme of men wearing hats used by Inberg. The face is not visible, but replaced by brickwork of a wall. This is similar to the painting “Son of Man” by René Magritte. The well-dressed suited and tie wearing gentleman with bowler hat.



Other modern surrealist photographers include:

Alex Stoddard –

Anka Zhuravleva –

Brooke Shaden –

Eugenio Recuenco –

Joel Robinson

Katerina Plotnikova

Kirsty Mitchell –

Kyle Thompson

Laura Zalenga –

Martin Stranka

Ronen Goldman

Sarah Ann Loreth


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