A SEN SE OF DIS­QUIET

Spa­ces that ought to be in­hab­ited, cou­pled with a cer­tain light­ing and view­point, can tap into clas­si­cal Sur­re­al­ism

NPhoto - - Nikopedia - Fol­low­ing the Sur­re­al­ist painter de Chirico’s style (here ‘Enigma of the Day’ shown in schematic form), an early morn­ing shot of the Bank of Eng­land evokes the same sense of un­pop­u­lated dis­lo­ca­tion

Sur­re­al­ism’s rep­u­ta­tion in the arts rests for most peo­ple on the strange im­agery

of Salvador Dalí and René Magritte. How­ever, Sur­re­al­ism had its sub­tle side, and its core idea was that you can find the ex­tra­or­di­nary in the or­di­nary. Pho­tog­ra­phy was per­fect for this, es­pe­cially ur­ban pho­tog­ra­phy, de­void of peo­ple, so that view­ers could find their own in­ter­pre­ta­tions that went far be­yond the sub­jects them­selves.

The Sur­re­al­ists ‘dis­cov­ered’ the Parisian pho­tog­ra­pher Eu­gene At­get and made him an icon sim­ply by rein­ter­pret­ing his work. Much of the time, he set up his cam­era at times of day to record empty streets, and the re­sults were slightly mys­te­ri­ous, or at least dis­lo­cated. One Sur­re­al­ist writer of the 1920s, Al­bert Valentin, wrote about At­get’s pho­to­graphs that “Ev­ery­thing has the air of tak­ing place some­where else, some­where be­yond.” The Ital­ian painter de Chirico per­fectly cap­tured the haunted mood of strange and empty cityscapes. The in­gre­di­ents of this mood are empti­ness, strange an­gles and view­points, rak­ing light, and no peo­ple.

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