This study will discuss and raise many questions such as ‘What connects photography to a surrealism of the everyday?’, ‘What makes the everyday so surreal?’, furthermore ‘How can one see the world in a unique perspective?’; ‘Can dreams influence the work of surrealism?’ and ‘Where do dreams receive its inspiration from?’. Additionally, throughout this text, I cover topics such as, The Everyday, The Dream, Surrealism in Photography and Artists that link photography to surrealism. I discuss surreal images which will be analysed and explored regarding how, why and where they have used this style of work.

Photography is a very competitive profession with multiple photographers competing for a similar role. In this business, it can be challenging to stand out to clients, for the simple fact that there are so many photographs already out there. It is a photographer’s role to stand out from the mediocre ‘professionals’ and express themselves, to which surrealism is a strong yet effective way of catching one’s eye.

Surrealism is about linking the dream with the everyday, resulting in images that don’t look authentic; with today’s technology, many photographers are able to create very peculiar photographs by using techniques such as multiple exposures (blending multiple images together) to create something almost abstract and unique. Surrealism allows one to stand out in this competitive profession, it will gain the attention of the viewer and make the audience dive into the conceptual theory or representation behind the artwork of photography. Staying unique will always gain both positive and negative attention, it may be appreciated by many yet it may also be frowned upon by others, this is the beauty of art, how each one of us has the freedom the intemperate work in our own way.

Surrealism is a wonderful way to stand out in the world where almost everybody carries a camera with them every day, whether it is a smartphone or a DSLR, cameras are everywhere. As a result, the number of images being taken is dramatically increasing day after day.

The Everyday

“The everyday in surrealism is already strange” Highmore (2002, p.46). What this quote suggests is that the ordinary things one sees everyday can also be surreal if one can change the way another looks at the world. Supposing that we change our perspective on the world, many objects may come across as peculiar. Everyone has a different view and their own opinion on what they see as surreal, yet surrealism can only be seen in the everyday. Each person has their own unique mind, this concludes that everyone is seeing the ‘everyday’ from their own personal perspective. With people from around the world growing up with different surrounding along with different backgrounds, this results in each of us having different views on surrealism.

Many believe that surrealism is beginning to be viewed as the ordinary. ‘There is a danger that surrealisms attempt to make the familiar unfamiliar has itself become all too familiar’ Highmore (2002 p.45). What Highmore is suggesting is that the audience are no longer as interested in surreal art as they use to be, as it has been shown commonly; for instance, it is shown in movies, photographs, paintings and more. The public are beginning to stop seeing surrealism as eye-catching and aesthetically pleasing because of the quantity this is being portrayed at.

Something that we see in the everyday is advertisements, where Surrealism is publicly and commonly used. Advertisement in the modern era tend to get more peculiar by the day.

‘The term ‘surreal’ has become part of a general social currency to be used in reference to everything from advertising to talking about personal experience – it has become the everyday’.

Highmore (2002 p.1)

Although the use of surrealism is being increasingly used, it is still very effective for the likes of advertisement. Within advertisements companies wish for their adverts to stand out, therefore they would use weird and peculiar ways to do this. For instance, the advert for money supermarket in 2015 (seen below) is of a grown man dancing in hot-pants, with the quote, ‘Dave saved money on his car insurance… and now he feels epic’ this advert looks and sounds ridiculous however because it is so extraordinary, most of the audience will remember this advertisement and bury this in their subconscious which is exactly the aim for many companies and their business.

To see surrealism in the everyday isn’t always easy. Surrealism doesn’t come to you, you must explore the world with an open mind and find the extraordinary for yourself:

“Surrealism is about an effort, an energy, to find the marvellous in the everyday, to recognize the everyday as a dynamic montage of elements, to make it strange so that its strangeness can be recognised.”

Highmore (2002 p.47)

As Comte De Lautréamont stated ‘As beautiful as the chance meeting, on a dissecting table, of a sewing-machine and an umbrella’; what Comte is expressing in this famous statement is the surreal will most likely be found through a ‘chance encounter’. This concludes that the more a person flâneurs (a man who saunters around observing society) the more likely they are to come across the ‘Marvellous in the everyday’.

The Dream

The subconscious plays a large role in surrealism. In a lot of surrealistic work many artists allow their subconscious to express itself, allowing the brain to do so will result in the unconscious mind taking control giving you abstract, bizarre and surreal art. The discovery of the ‘unconscious mind’ was from Sigmund Freud who was an Austrian neurologist and the founder of psychoanalysis. One of Sigmund’s most famous statements is, ‘The mind is like an iceberg, it floats with one-seventh of its bulk above water.’; Freud represents the tip of the iceberg as the conscious mind and the iceberg below water as the unconscious mind. What Sigmund is saying in this statement is that we know what is going on in our conscious mind and we are aware of it, however not so much in our unconscious mind.

Surrealism was first discovered in Paris, in 1942 by Andre Breton. Andre was massively influenced by Sigmund Freud’s work. Andre Breton was an important member of the Dada group,  a poet who expressed automatism. Automatism is where an artist would allow their subconscious mind to take control.

“I believe in the future resolution of these two states, dream and reality, which are seemingly so contradictory, into a kind of absolute reality, a surreality, if one may so speak.”

Breton (1924)

Andre linking both the dream and reality together is what creates surrealism. The dream, influenced by our subconscious mind is what gives us the inspiration to create surrealistic art, and by mixing this inspiration with reality is where the extraordinary exists.

Stephen Bull acknowledge that ‘people share common experiences, desires and anxieties, all of which have an effect on how they will view a photograph’ Bull. S p.46 (2010). From this statement Stephen is declaring that with the use of semiotics, a photographer can connect with the observer’s unconscious mind by ‘triggering emotions (joy, fear, Anger etc.)’ Bull. S p.46 (2010). Connecting with the observer emotionally can most likely be the notable difference between the banal (so lacking in originality as to be obvious and boring.) and the contextual photograph. By using a signifier as a ‘punctum’ (Barthes, R. (2000), p.25) the observer becomes signified, which therefore gives the photograph a personal meaning, resulting in this person becoming emotionally attached to that photograph.

Surrealism in Photography

Surrealism is progressively used in commercial photography. Surrealism in photography is used largely in advertising, a brand will expectedly be remembered more using this method, rather than the banal commercial photograph; which is why surrealism is being increasingly used in this area of commercial photography. With the likes of Damien Blottiere who artistically cuts multiple photographs and places them back together to create one final photographic collage. Blottiere helps to keep the Commercial Photographic profession fresh and interesting with new and interesting concepts and techniques.

damien blottiere surrealism photography
Figure 1, Christofle (Blottiere 2015)

The photograph shown above is a piece from Blottiere which advertises jewellery for Christofle. This artwork expresses advertising and surrealism in a unique and artistic way. Using a surrealistic style in commercial photography is being increasingly used; this is because surrealism is represented as intriguing, allowing businesses to catch the eyes of the audience. The more peculiar the surrealism the more likely it is to be remembered and recognised. 

What Blottiere has done to create this artwork is he has taken multiple photographs, cut them up and carefully placed them back together creating a surreal, interesting and eye-catching way of representing advertising. The use of black and white is also interesting as allows the coloured jewellery stand out, making the main subject of the photograph. Blottiere is famously known for this style of work as he has used it for many high street companies such as Louis Vuitton, Dolce & Gabbana, Armani and Vogue proving that this style of Surreal Photography is very successful for Damien Blottiere.

Another way surrealism is effective in photography is with fashion photography. Fashion is becoming progressively eccentric day by day, and for the photographers to work in this profession they must counter with this style.

Vogue. Meisel, P (May 2011) surrealism photography
Vogue. Meisel, P (May 2011)

This Peculiar Photograph by Steven Meisel is of Alexander McQueen’s Voss, Spring 2001’. This photograph was shown in Vogue, May 2011. This style of photography is bizarre and strange however it is what the public want to see, they do not wish to see average clothing being published in magazines such as Vogue, they want to see astonishing, remarkable and shocking designs of clothing which therefore mostly results in a fashion becoming surreal. Fashion is about expressing yourself, expressing your appearance, expressing your dream, showcasing your imagination just like any other artist. Photographers must help to capture what the fashion designer is expressing, what emotions they are trying to portray; for instance, most modern fashion is becoming distinctive therefore, a photographer must compliment this style, as this is the style that most fashion designers showcase as they express themselves, allowing their subconscious to take control and allow their imagination to lead the way.

Conclusively Surrealism can be used in many styles of photography and be successful, depending on how you use it. Surrealism is a spectacular way to stand out and attract interest if used correctly. The link between photography and surrealism is that photography is always about catching the audiences eye, yet with a world filled with photographs and cameras it is only getting harder to create something new, something that hasn’t been done before that is still appealing to the target audience. An effective way to capture the target audience is to allow the subconscious to take control and dominate the brain, this is when the extraordinary is created.

Artists that link Photography to Surrealism


One photographer who portrays surrealism remarkably is Tim Walker. Walker has worked with several world-famous magazines such as The British, Italian Vogue, American Vogue, W magazine and LOVE magazine. British born photographer Tim Walker from London came out with a BA Honours Degree in Photography at Exeter college of art. upon graduating in 1994 he moved to New York as a full-time assistant to the acclaimed Richard Avedon. Following his work with Richard Avedon, he returned to England working for British newspapers concentrating on documentary and portraiture photography, and by 25 years old he photographed his first fashion story which would be displayed in Vogue magazines.

Lady Grey (Walker, T 2010) surrealism photography
Lady Grey (Walker, T 2010)

The photograph from his collection ‘Lady Grey’ (shown in the magazine of Vogue Italia) taken by Tim Walker immensely shows the use of surrealism in his work. This set of work was inspired by Jean Cocteau’s film Beauty and the Beast. The photograph shows two females holding hands, one with a rabbit’s head on top of her head along with a cream dress which may represent the so called ‘Beast’, the other dressed in a gold costume with a gold helmet along with a large feather sticking out of their helmet represents the ‘Beauty’ from Beauty and the Beast. The location of this photoshoot is Howick Hall, the home of Earl Grey. Walker expressed his feelings on the location to Vogue Italia by saying ‘I love the fact that the house in this photoshoot is falling into decay’ Walker (2010); The use of this location is very interesting, the building has been abandoned for almost 30 years however it still looks so elegant even though it is deteriorating. This building may also show the representation of beauty and the Beast’ as its beauty is contradicted by its disfigurements.

Tim Walker is known in many countries for his surreal artistic work. Walker is famous for his surrealism because his ideas and photoshoots being so eccentric that they stand out to people, the audience is then encouraged to analyse the photograph to try and read what it is he is representing, making his work mean much more than just a snapshot, it is conspicuous. In an interview by SHOWstudio Tim Walker stated that ‘when everything comes together, and you look through the viewfinder, there’s a window to something magical’ Walker, T (2009); What he said in this interview sums up the love he has for photography and his work, he is always showcasing new photographs with fascinating photoshoots, showing us an insight to his subconscious, to his view and creativity on the world. His surrealism and peculiar creations are what he is recognised for, proving a notable example of how surrealism can help to stand out from others.


Brooke Shaden is an American fine art photographer. After an honourable mention in the photographer of the year in 2010, she has been showcased in many exhibitions around the world, showcased in many magazines and won multiple awards for her surrealistic imagery.

holding on to broken pieces, (Shaden, 2016)
holding on to broken pieces, (Shaden, 2016)

This photograph by Brooke Shaden is called ‘holding on to broken pieces’. It is of a nude woman sat in what looks like a derelict room with two other nude figures sat behind her making it look as though the woman in the front has multiple limbs. Holding on to broken pieces is styled very interestingly, because of those behind the woman, it makes the observer gaze at the photograph and analyse the situation; how many people there are?, Where the limbs are coming from?, What does this photograph represent? For the location of the photoshoot the building does look derelict which adds more interest to the image as it creates a dark feel, especially with the lighting being dark and mysterious too. This photograph is linked to surrealism because Shaden has turned the everyday into something spectacular; The everyday of this image would be people, we see people everyday and it is commonly no surprise to see people photographed, however the way Shaden has positioned and styled these people has made the photograph different, unique and extraordinary.


In conclusion to this photography is all about standing out and catching the eye of the audience, surrealism is a strong technique that can be used to do this very well. With a world filled with cameras and smartphones it is increasingly easier for anyone to take a picture, wherever and of whatever they like, and as a result photographs are seen more commonly than ever. Because of todays technology it is only becoming harder for one to look at a photograph and be amazed. Photography is becoming notably popular again due to the ease of the technology, the struggle to get the best photograph is only getting harder and the competition for projects will only become more troublesome than it already is; However, with the use of surrealism this can help to give a photograph that something extra, something that can stand out to the rest. Surrealism is for artists to express their dreams and imagination, therefore it will be unlikely for others to have work comparable.

If you found this blog interesting then make sure to check out my other content on my photography blog.