Colour and Surrealism

As much as I like Carl de Keyzer and Peter Dench’s work (and there is much to like) I’m still not convinced by the focus here on colour as the relevant aspect of surrealism here. Choosing to isolate colour as the defining factor seems to condense the idea of surrealism to mean simply ‘quirky’.

In the case of ‘Zona’, colour definitely adds a human aspect to the images, and helps us to see the inmates as real people. They become more than just photographic subjects, and the overall images become more than just a sombre record. The use of colour in Peter Dench’s images – particularly of the English at ‘play’ – also humanises them but in a way that makes them perhaps even less attractive than they otherwise would appear. In some cases the colour adds a political dimension that would not be obvious at all in B&W. However in both cases I don’t understand what is surreal about these images. There is an aspect of surrealism relating to things being ‘out of place’, and it doesn’t seem to me that the colour in either set has much to do with this. Any hint of surrealism here is not because of the colour.

I found this exercise particularly hard and unrewarding; picking any topic of interest and then reducing it to a very specific component seems rather reminiscent of the first elements of ‘The Art of Photography’. I set out with no particular intention other than to see what there was, and found I was attracted to discarded objects that especially stood out due to their colour. I’m not at all convinced that this follows the idea of surrealism as mentioned in the course notes but they do at least give a suggestion of things being out of place.

This last photograph doesn’t fit with the others but does go along with the idea of humour, if only as simple political sarcasm.

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