TASK 2- Dissertation Proposal

Bibliography of reading list

In regards to my dissertation, I have created a reading list with books associated with my idea of what I want to explore.

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click here for document Dissertation Proposal

Task 1



Dissertation proposal


For my dissertation I want to explore the relationship between surrealism art movement and the subconscious mind. In regards to surrealism I want to explore the move from art to photography and discuss how well photography can relay the subconscious mind. I find the interaction and influences between psychology and photography interesting and want to explore this further. Questions that I want to be included is;

  • How marginal surrealism is through the framework of its uses in photography and other creative fields?
  • How coherent is photography to the aims of surrealism?

With Lucian Freud being the godfather on the subconscious mind, I want to start by exploring his methodologies on the subconscious, psychoanalysis and his dream movement. Would surrealism exist without the notion of the subconscious mind. Influence by Sigmund Freud the movement of surrealism created a revolution against the boundaries of the rational mind. Various techniques created by Freud and others where explored to bring the subconscious thoughts of their patients to the surface, surrealists borrowed such techniques like automatisms which is Involuntary actions and processes not under the control of the conscious mind. Surrealists were also deeply interested in interpreting dreams as conduits for unspoken feelings and desires.

In regards to psychologist theories and their connection to surrealism ‘Surrealist Manifesto’ by Andre Breton is a book that will heavily influence my dissertation. Breton described what effect the unconscious mind can have over art seen by renowned artists such as Salvador Dali. Also researching the book ‘Andre Breton and the first principles of surrealism’ by Franklin Rosemont I want to research how the surrealists influenced by Freud (with their desire to merge the unconscious and conscious) led to their subversive beliefs.

‘It is not the unconscious I seek in your pictures, but the conscious. Your mystery is manifested outright. The picture is but a mechanism to reveal itself’ (Ades 1974 p.49)

That was Freud’s comment on Salvador Dali’s work when he first met him. Freud believed that it was a mistake to regard surrealism artwork as direct manifestation of the unconscious mind as they were proceeded and highly shaped by the ego. Throughout this dissertation I want to follow the question how well surreal art can actually portray the subconscious mind. What happened when surrealists where creating art. How was the use of Freud’s theory of dreams in order to manifest the libertarian of the unconscious used in their artworks?

Focusing on photography’s role in surrealism an essay by Rosalind Krause on surrealism and photography I found very interesting as a basis to explore. Questioning how well photography can portray the subconscious. Photography almost has a stigma to being ‘straight’ and objective but artists such as Man Ray and Dali took surrealism across from art to photography. Many out of camera techniques and process take away this ‘straightness’ and welcome it to the world of abstraction. Processes such as photograms introduced by Man Ray create images that are questioned. Surrealist photographers managed to overcome these limitations creating images that are symbolic depictions of the subconscious. These images have an underlying meaning which takes surrealism across the artistic board. This movement then allowed for experimentation and new artistic techniques; multiple exposure, montage etc. These techniques are now common across photography shown in artists such as Wolfgang Tillman’s with his abstract gestures shown in Blushes (2003).

Exploring how objective surrealism can be I want to explore how far it can be stretched across artistic fields. Not only does Surrealism occur in art, but can be seen throughout all creative fields, especially in Fashion. For example, Jean Paul Gaultier’s 2006 fall collection titled ‘Les Surrealistes’ where he adapted Schiaparelli’s’ skeleton dress. He also accessorised with a hat appearing to be made from the models own hair.

The initial layout plan of my dissertation goes as follows;

  • Freud’s ‘interpretation of dreams’ 1990 and how this strongly influenced the movement of surrealism, providing a theoretical bass unravelling the unconscious and freeing imagination
  • The introduction of surrealism movement and their initial influence by Freud
  • Robert Desnos – poet whose work was highly appreciated by surrealists – where he orally followed his thought
  • Bretton- Bretton believed that the barriers between the conscious and unconscious could be broken down leading to a new reality – surreality
  • Artistic movement within surrealism; max Ernst, Salvador Dali, Luis Bunuel , whose automatic drawings of 1923 reflect the ideas of the subconscious mind
  • Man Ray- the crossover exploring surrealism and the subconscious mind throughout art and photography
  • How well photography fits within the surrealist field – reference to Rosalind Kraus essay
  • Out of camera techniques and processes that take photography away from being ‘straight’
  • Introduction of Surrealist Fashion photography – Tim walker, Nick Knight etc. and the expansion of surrealist fields. Introduction into Fashion influenced by surrealism, initially introduced by The subconscious.

The brain is mindful of reality, creating its own inner realities. This for me is an interesting point and the whole idea of the subconscious and how it interacts and influences everyday life shown through art is interesting to explore.


Ades, D. (1974). Dada and surrealism. London: Thames and Hudson.


TASK 2 – Analysis of texts in relation to my dissertation.

Critical analysis / synopsis of texts and examples in relation to surrealism.


Photography and surrealism, sexuality, colonialism and social dissent

David Bate


This text by Bate questions at preface which ways photography is used within surrealism and starts to explore the understanding of surrealism. He looks at how far surrealism was margined and how it has been marginalized through any theory of photography. Aiming to re-examine surrealism through the framework of its uses of photography. He explores the work by Man Ray and uses him as an example as the first key figure in introducing photography to surrealism during the mid 1920’s. I found it interesting how Bate explores the shift in the boundaries of surrealism, looking at the development where it started changing alongside events in its time. It was noted that the previous framing of ‘surrealism’ must adapt to social shifts. Bates text is chronological on the changes of surrealism and its adaptation to photography. It was founded in a ‘duel assault against the military and psychiatric barbarism of the 1914-18 first world war and rejection of the values of the art and literature tradition to which it’s members were being recruited’ (Bates, 1000).

The experience of hysteria was what started the surrealists, similarly to Freud, opening to a concept of ‘physical reality’. Surrealism aimed to combine fantasy with reality as a political stance. When bates discusses the use of surrealism in photography he discusses how earlier art critics and historians who had standardized views on aesthetics, ignored the various physical meanings attaching photography to surrealism. Reading photographs and how they are analyzed, plays a part in how the boundaries expand.  Bate explains that Surrealism is a movement of art that can’t be understood when looked at, however it’s common in photography pieces for audiences to depict a narrative even if not a lot is given. Preconscious values and previous knowledge on the subject allowed for images to be ‘read’ by the audience. However, I would say more abstract and ambiguous pieces of photography such as out of camera techniques, shown in the dark room, wouldn’t fall under this category. This proposal and exploration is interesting to see how well the boundaries stretched and look more closely between the interaction of photography and surrealism.



Snap shots of the subconscious- Discussing the surrealist movement influence on photography

Athina Lugez


This is an online article wrote by Lugez on Ian Walkers upcoming lecture exploring photography’s role in surrealism ‘speaking of photography’. Andre Breton’s ‘Surrealist manifesto’ was the introduction in surrealism. ‘The defining characteristic of surrealist imagery is that there is more than what the eye can see […] there is something there you can’t explain that can mean very different things. The image makes you want to explore further and connect and play with your imagination’ (Walker, I 2014). This text backs up how photography has been expanded in to surrealist art, following and connecting to the previous example ‘Photography and Surrealism’ by David bate. This explains how surrealist photographers overcame the limitations of photography, and moved away from the idea that photography was ‘straight’. They did this by photographing Images that were symbolic depictions of the subconscious mind. This created more powerful imagery as they now had an underlying meaning. Much like imagery and thoughts that Freud acknowledged were symbolisms for else what. This movement then could allow for photographers to experiment and look for more artistic techniques. Multiple exposure, photo montage and photograms are all examples used where the ideology behind surrealism merged with photography. Photography was originally a realistic method representing the surface of things when the notion of surrealism was introduced this helped adapt photography to show and explore what laid underneath. This article explores this move with renowned photographers giving a better insight in this change. Henri Cartier-Bresson was known for being a ‘Straight’ photographer taking standardized photographs in the ‘decisive movement’. The principles of Surrealism also influenced the images he captured noted through his precise geometric compositions and high contrasted black and white images.






Fashion inspired by Surrealism

Jennifer Hirshlag


This is an article on ELLE online that discusses surrealisms influence on the fashion world and designs that have been noted from the famous movement and art pieces. Exploring further that surrealism has extended its boundaries and shows creative fields working hand in hand with each other. Examples that are given are;

Alexander McQueen. This designer has previously dressed women in shells, butterfly’s feathers etc. he has always been associated with surrealism and loose abstraction in his designs and layout of runways. It was his collection ‘La poupe’ that was credited to be directly involved with surrealism. Dedicated to surrealist photographer Hans Bellmer, McQueen explored notions of the manipulated body on his catwalk, this was shown through accessorizing of a model with a cage like contraption. Jean Paul Gaultier has also shown a keen interest in surrealist adaptation with his version of Schiaparelli’s’ skeleton dress in his 2006 fall collection titled ‘Les Surrealistes’. He then accessorized with a hat appearing to be made from the models own hair. This article aids me in exploring the modern day uses of surrealism and how it has travelled across boundaries. In my dissertation as I will be exploring the boundaries these examples and text on how it’s been expanded help advance other points, similarly to the two previous texts.

‘I do like the idea of not real, because everything is real in some way and it’s sort of misplacing or taking things out of context that makes them odd, interesting and different.’ (Jacobs, M 2008)
















Walker, Ian (2014) ‘Snapshots of the subconscious- discussing surrealist movements influence on photography’ in: the link newspaper, November 10th 2014, at: https://thelinknewspaper.ca/article/snapshots-of-the-subconscious accessed on: 15th May 2017


Bate, David (2003) ‘Photography and surrealism. Sexuality, colonialism and social dissent’ [online] At: https://archive.org/stream/Photography_and_Surrealism._Sexuality_Colonialism_and_Social_Dissent/Photography_and_Surrealism._Sexuality_Colonialism_and_Social_Dissent_djvu.txt

Accessed on: 16th May 2017


Jacobs, Marc (2008) ‘Fashion inspired by surrealism’ in : Elle, August 19 2013, at: http://www.elle.com/fashion/g8486/fashion-moments-inspired-by-surrealism/?

Accessed on : 16th May









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