Spanish photographer Philippe Halsman managed to create one of the most unique and innovative pieces of contemporary art – a surrealist photograph, that is not a fragment of the imagination as paintings are, but is rather a realist attempt at transferring surrealism to the realm of photography. It is important to note that prior to the rise of surrealist photographers such as Halsman himself, around the 1930s and 1940s, photography was used as a solely technical, documentary and journalistic tool.
Halsman, not a stranger to Dali, and an individual who photographed him many times, aimed at getting to the core of the artists, and attempted to truly understand him and his motives, spurring some of the most iconic portraits of the surrealist.
When attempting to create this surrealist photograph (called Dalí Atomicus), Haslman claimed that it was an example of a practice termed “jumpology”. Making this artistic endeavor a common practice, and in a vehement attempt to capture the true spirit of his subjects, he began asking them to jump after each photo session. In his words, “When you ask a person to jump, his attention is mostly directed toward the act of jumping and the mask falls so that the real person appears.”
As can be imagined, the aforementioned Dalī Atomicus required intense preparation; Halsman drew his inspiration from the Dali’s Leda Atomica, but attempted to create a more balanced overview of this celebrated painting. Halsman attempted to create this perfect surrealist photo more than a hundred times; the original photo reveals wires suspending the easel and the painting, the assistant holding up the chair on the left side of the frame, but there was no hidden trick to the flying cats or the stream of water. In order to achieve this, Halsman’s assistants (his wife and one of his daughters) tossed the cats and the contents of a full bucket across the frame. When Halsman was finally satisfied with the overall result and composition, Dalí added a finishing touch to the printed photograph: his idiosyncratic swirls of paint that appear on the easel. The final image was published in Lifemagazine.
At Dan Alexander & Co, we worked with Ceasarstone to freeze up in time memorable moments, and recreate the essence of surrealism through the art of branding and design. Our idea of taking a countertop and freezing not only the object itself, but also the activities and essence embedded within it, is greatly inspired by Philippe Halsman’s work.