Dada is a cultural movement that began in Zurich, Switzerland during World War I. It was a revolt against the bourgeois values of the time and a rejection of the prevailing standards of art.

The movement was characterized by spontaneity and anti-art sensibilities.

Dadaists found beauty in what others considered to be mundane objects. They were masters at taking everyday objects and turning them into something beautiful, making the ordinary extraordinary.

dada and surrealist photography

What Is dada and surrealist photography?

The Dada movement in art and the Surrealist movement in photography both emerged in the early 20th century.

Their similarities and differences are fascinating to study, but their main commonality is that they both involve artistic self-expression.

Trying to define Dada is a daunting task because it was a reaction against what had come before it. Many of its artists were WWI veterans who were opposed to the war and everything that had led up to it.

Surrealist photography is also considered an anti-art form. Its practitioners believed that human reason could not explain the mysteries of life, so they focused on creating images of things that cannot exist in reality.

The movement’s founder was artist André Breton, who wrote its manifesto in 1924. He was inspired by psychoanalytic theory as well as alchemy.

The name Dada was adopted by French artists, writers, and poets who rejected the traditional art form and challenged conventions, often in a nonsensical way.

They made paintings, drawings, poems, and sculptures that emphasized chance or randomness, as opposed to skill or mastery.

The earliest example of Dada art was a 1916 exhibit in Zurich, Switzerland that included works by Marcel Janco.

Avant-garde artists would hang out in cafes, drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes while they conversed about literature, music, politics, and art.

They believed they could change their reality through artistic creativity.

They used many mediums including poetry, photography, collage and painting to express their ideas.

Surrealism is a form of art that strives to represent the true meaning of reality in an imaginative way that doesn’t make sense logically.

It’s an artistic movement based on the belief that there’s more to reality than can be perceived by humans using only their five senses.

It was born out of Dadaism and the term Surrealism was coined by poet Guillaume Apollinaire to describe one of the artworks he saw at an exhibition during the First World.

Check out our deep-dive into surrealist film to learn more:

What Is The Dada Movement

The Dada movement was founded in Zürich, Switzerland in 1916 as an anti-art movement. The name is derived from a French child’s word for “hobby horse.” 

This group of artists sought to use art to express meaning and emotion through disruption and confusion.

The movement was defined by its use of nonsensical imagery and violence, the rejection of reason and logic, and the rejection of art that had been created before the movement began.

The Dada Manifesto, written by Hugo Ball, outlined the goals and philosophy of the movement.

It states, “Dada does not mean anything.” With this in mind, Dada artists sought to present their work without giving it a specific title or explaining what it meant.

They felt that a work should be accepted or rejected on its own merits rather than according to its creator or explanation. In order to further distance themselves from traditional art forms, they made their art out of found objects, such as trash can lids or old shovels.

They also added intentional misspellings to make their works seem more authentic and removed, as well as intentionally inserted errors.

When World War I began in 1914, many Dada artists in Europe fled to neutral Switzerland.

What Is Surrealist Photography

Surrealist photography is a genre of photography with a purpose – to evoke feelings and emotions in the viewer by using different techniques and methods. 

In order to achieve this goal, surrealist photographers often use unusual or odd elements, such as body parts or inanimate objects that seem out of place.

Tilt-shift photography is another style of surrealist photography that uses a very shallow depth of field to make an image look like it was miniaturized. 

This type of photography was made popular after it was used in the movie The Matrix to create the fight scene between the main characters Neo and Agent Smith.

It has since been used on many other movies and television shows.

The term “surrealism” was coined in the early 1920s by Guillaume Apollinaire, who described how it changed the world of art: 

“It will readily be understood that my Surrealism is not concerned with any reigning school or doctrine; I am far from accepting the theories of Freud or subscribing to the notions of Jung.”

He referred to “an absolute reality, a surreality, if one may so speak”.

Surrealist Photography is done differently than regular photography. There are many different effects and styles.

Important Artists Of Dada And Surrealist Photography

Both Dada and Surrealist photography share some common features, but there are also significant differences between them.

They were both intended to shock people and to disrupt the normal way of thinking about things.

The origins of Dada and Surrealist photography can be traced back to the First World War, which caused many people to question traditional beliefs.

The war had a profound impact on a lot of people, especially the soldiers who witnessed it firsthand. Many artists produced paintings and drawings that reflected their feelings about the war and its aftermath.

In 1917, a group of artists in Zurich, Switzerland formed a cultural movement they called Dada (which means “hobby horse”). The members of this group tried to challenge conventional thinking by ridiculing popular symbols such as logic and reason.

Their art was intended to be amusing yet disturbing at the same time. Dada artists often used collage techniques in their artwork, which involved placing objects from completely different contexts together in one composition.

Some Dada artists also made use of photomontage, a technique in which photographs are altered using scissors or glue to create a new image that is often satirical.


Important Photos Of Dada And Surrealist Photography

The two movements were a reaction to society’s destruction by war and to the hypocritical pretenses of artists and intellectuals who had intelligently justified the war.

The first Dada group was formed by young German men, Hugo Ball, Emmy Hennings, Hans Richter and Richard Huelsenbeck. They sought to attack traditional culture with ridicule and shock, using visual art as well as writing.

In 1916 the French writer Guillaume Apollinaire wrote an article about the movement in which he said “I don’t know where Dada is going, but we must go there.” 

That quote has since become one of the movement’s most famous statements.

To Dadaists it represented their disdain for rational thought and disdain for public opinion.

Dada artists staged provocative performances, often using random objects like furniture or food as props.

Many of these pieces were photographed because they were intended to be temporary artworks that would disrupt the status quo while exposing embarrassing truths about society.

History Of Surrealism In Photography

Surrealism was officially launched in 1924 at the International Exhibition of Surrealism in Paris, which was organized by poet André Breton.

The movement was influenced by Freud’s theory of the unconscious and Jung’s symbolic analysis. Toward the end of World War I, many artists felt disillusioned with what they described as a senseless war.

They expressed their rejection of this reality through their art. Dadaism, an anti-war art form, initiated by Kurt Schwitters in Zurich, Switzerland in 1916, inspired the development of surrealism.

Surrealist photographic techniques are based on using chance and accident to create imagery that can sometimes be difficult to decipher. A good example of this can be seen in the collection of photos created by Man Ray.

He placed objects directly onto photographic paper without first creating a photographic negative or slide. He then used chemicals or heat to transfer the resulting image onto another piece of paper or canvas.

The resulting work was often unpredictable and could be interpreted as having symbolic significance…Man Ray believed that there were no rules when it came to making photographs; he stated, 

“Every photograph is a kind of magic spell; it conjures up for us ghosts.”

Summary Of Dada And Surrealist Photography

Surrealism is a form of art and philosophy that aims to represent the true character of dreams, emphasizing the illogical side of human nature as opposed to the logical.

It is often characterized by highly abstracted and random imagery. It may be created by superimposing two or more photographic images on top of one another, or through a combination of techniques such as photomontage, double exposure, or incorporation of found objects into photographs.

Surrealist photography is usually very unconventional and may violate basic photographic guidelines such as perspective and focus. In 1925, Louis Aragon defined Surrealism as “Pure psychic automatism”.

Surrealistic photography features this element of automatism as well as others. An example of this would be self-portraits in which the camera is pointed toward the photographer instead of away from them, capturing their image rather than the image in front of them.

Another example is photographs where everything in the image is recognizable yet unrecognizable at the same time, like those taken by Atget or Moholy-Nagy.