Saturday Review: Ghosts of the Black Chamber

Ghosts of the Black Chamber (1)

Ghosts of the Black Chamber:
Experimental, Dada & Surrealist Photography 1918-1948

“Surrealism lies at the heart of the photography enterprise: in the very creation of a duplicate world. Of a reality in the second degree, narrower but more dramatic than the one perceived by natural vision” The quote is by Susan Sontag and is how this great little book starts. Featured are 85 different artists who did photography in the early 1900’s from these 3 movements. It starts off with a 5 page introduction into what artists were doing with photography then and about photography in general. Then it gets right into providing you shots taken by these artists and a mini-biography about each. Certainly most are very brief only being 1 page long, biography including example photos. I mean 85 artists in a 128 pages book means there is not a lot of space for more. However the book is really about showing you ALL the artists doing photography back then instead of just highlighting a select few and it makes sense since most of the featured artists were poets, painters, film makers, sculpture and everything in between so sometimes they didn’t have much in the way of photography. That doesn’t mean that their photography was any less important to the movement of photography, which made the most gain as a popular art form in this time due to the camera were becoming more readily available and cheaper. There are also very few artists apart of the surrealist movement as whole who did just one thing. And that’s really the joy of this book, being able to see all the obscure artists or people who I knew for their other work. Not to mention the photography, this book is packed with photography gems, some of the likes haven’t even been investigated further in modern photography so they look fresh and revolutionary still in a time where cameras are something everyone has, and anyone can take digital photos. My breath got taken a way several times while looking through this book especially while looking through the bizarre and strange works of the Dadaist. There is very few works in here that are boring and not worth your time to look at. I don’t think I could have asked for a better book to highlight dada, experimental and surrealist photography. For anyone who is into these movements or wants to see early 1900’s photography I strongly recommend you pick up this book. Or as a fan of any of these artists, Andre Breton, Salvador Dali, Duchamp, Max Ernst, some of the most well-known Dadaists and Surrealists, definitely you will enjoy the artwork featured in this book and seeing maybe a side of them you hadn’t seen before or if you like looking at all black and white photography. For someone who has no interest in these movements or earlier photography it is probably not the best book as that is the clear audience it’s aimed at and you may find, as people do with my own Dadaist photography that its simply not your thing and too bizarre for you.

Check out below for select photos taken of the book:

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