Monday, April 22, 2019


I have been fascinated by surrealism since my art days in college. Of all the masters of the genre, Salvador Dalí still remains the godfather of surrealism. 

Some of the characteristics of surrealism include the element of surprise and the unexpected, both of which might cause a sense of awe and bewilderment. Imagery can at times be a bit bazaar and leave folks scratching their heads.

As for my photography, it isn't always bazaar like some of Dalí's works. Most often it's the angles I choose, the subjects I pick to photograph, and the techniques I use. Combined, they all possess some of the characteristics of surrealism. Sometimes, when seen out of context, my images might take a few seconds before the viewer figures out what it is.

With that, let's start with this image. I'm always on the lookout for the "out-of-place"--scenarios that are unlikely, not the usual, not the common. Such was this scenario. I was on the second floor of an old historic hotel. I walked up a long spiral staircase to get to the second floor. As I looked down from the second floor, looking back at where I had just walked, I saw this. Someone who worked for the hotel had decided that at the bottom of the stairs, on the first floor, would be a great place to set up an office. Note the office table, a computer monitor, lamps, and office chairs.

I love coffee shops, especially home-grown local shops. They are so much friendlier and the atmosphere so relaxed and personable, compared to those "chain" coffee places. I found one of those local places in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Unfortunately, it no longer exists! Before I ordered, I had to go to the restroom. The moment I opened the door, Salvador Dalí greeted me with this!!


A local artist had painted a jungle themed mural inside the men's restroom! Of course, I never found out if the women's restroom was similarly decorated. I call it "It's A Jungle In There." 

One of our neighbors has an artificial skeleton. I don't know what material it's made of but it looks amazingly real. He places it on a tree in front of his house and decorates it according to the seasons or annual holidays. It was dressed up for St. Patrick's Day the day I saw this surreal backdrop of dogwoods. If you look for it, surrealism can be just around the corner, literally.

Believe it or not, I saw this grove of mysterious pines from a two-lane road. I was going around 60 mph when I got a quick glimpse of them. I just had to turn around and follow my intuition. I walked in front of this grove for several minutes, left-to-right; right-to-left. Then I saw it! It was as if the trees had created a path for me while whispering, "This is your path."
The conversion of the original to a B&W image enhanced the mystique, especially the way the tall dry grasses turned ghostly white. 

I will show this next image first before I comment on it.


Last year, a team of creative folks in the quaint historic town of Eureka Springs, Arkansas (which I call home), including a team from the majestic Crescent Hotel, painted several donated bikes as part of a new downtown bicycle art project. It was fun photographing the bikes as several folks aimed their spray cans at them.

Fast forward to March 2019. We had our first snow, and I just had to tow my camera to wherever I could find some "canvases" to paint with my camera. As I drove down Main Street, I saw all the bikes against a backdrop of white snow. This green one caught my attention. There are several details about this image that qualifies it as surreal. First, a flat green bike. Second, the bow. Third, the Mardi Gras beads hanging from the handle bars.

The unexpected; the unusual; the element of surprise. 

A tip for photographers: you don't need to photograph the entire subject to translate the essence of it. Sometimes, the extraction from the whole can be more powerful.

For this last example, I will again show it first then comment after you absorb it. 


I saw this giant young woman staring at what appeared to be two toy VW buses, as if playing with them. The buses are real. The woman is a giant mural on the wall of a building nearby. I positioned myself to where I could only see one of her eyes between the two vehicles to add to the surrealism. By the way, this was in Colorado--those are not pine trees depicted on that sign on the door. Think what plant is legal in the state. 

I hope I gave you some ideas for you to go out and look for the unexpected, the unusual,
the weird, the surreal. 

Have fun with it!

Eli Vega, author of the award-winning book, Right Brain Photography (Be an artist first).  

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