Walker 275h

Image: Courtesy of Ian Walker

The Short, Sharp History of Surrealist Photography

Friday, 14 November 2014, at 18:30
Concordia University, EV-1.605 (map)

Ian Walker

Independent scholar, London, UK

In the last three decades, no area of surrealist activity has received more critical attention than photography. Moreover, this interest has profoundly affected the way that the history of photography has been rewritten during this period. But such an emphasis dates only from the end of the 1970s, over fifty years after surrealism was founded. Until then, the role of photography in surrealism was barely mentioned. Why was the conjunction of surrealism and photography recognized at that point in time and what does it tell us about the changing attitudes to both surrealism and photography since the 1980s? This talk will look at the range of different books and exhibitions that appeared between 1979 and 2013, and consider how the reputations of both famous photographers like Man Ray and Henri Cartier-Bresson and less known figures like Claude Cahun and Eli Lotar have been affected by this intense focus on surrealist photography.

Ian Walker was Professor of the History of Photography and Programme Leader for the MA in Documentary Photography at the University of Wales, Newport (now the University of South Wales) until 2013. His major area of research has been the relationship between documentary photography and surrealism, and he has published three books on the subject: City Gorged with Dreams (Manchester University Press, 2002), So Exotic, So Homemade (Manchester University Press, 2007) and the co-authored volume Surrealism and Photography in Czechoslovakia (Ashgate, 2013). He has also written extensively on photography more broadly, including the essay “Through the Picture Plane: On Looking into Photographs” for Image and Imagination, the catalogue of the 2005 edition of the Mois de la photo de Montréal. His own photographs have also been exhibited in Britain and Europe and his work is held in public collections including the Arts Council of England, the Freud Museum, and Southampton City Art Gallery.

Athina Lugez, writer for The Link: Concordia's Independent Newspaper, interviewed Ian Walker in this featured article, "Snapshots of the Subconscious."

Of Related Interest:

Surrealism and Photography in Czechoslovakia

So Exotic, So Homemade

Image and Imagination

Freud & Sambo, Freud Museum London