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Dali Atomicus

Written by: George Chittenden : 21 Nov 2019

This unusual, and arguably cruel photograph was taken in 1948 by Philippe Halsman, who at the time was a leading portrait photographer. The photo, known as Dalí Atomicus, features the artist Salvador Dalí, a chair, an easel, three cats and a gallon of water, and it all appears to be suspended in mid-air. Dali of course was the leading surrealist of the 20th century, and is famous for his melting clocks and other dream imagery in paintings, sculptures and even films.

Dalí Atomicus, 1948

Dalí Atomicus, 1948

Back in 1948 the photographer Philippe Halsman began developing a theory that he could capture peoples true personalities by photographing people while they jumped in the air. Halsman named his theory “jumpology”. Teaming up with Dali they created this photo, which was inspired by Dalí’s painting Leda Atomicus. The image took six hours and twenty-eight takes, and for each take, an assistant threw a bucket of water from the left while three more assistants threw the cats from the right, at the exact moment that Dalí leapt in the air. In truth, the easel was actually held up by string and the chair was supported by Halsman’s wife. The string and Yvonne’s hand were airbrushed out afterwards to create this surreal image.

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