The Story Behind The Surreal Photograph Of Salvador Dalí

Categories: Salvador Dali

Photography is an art of capturing images, and it is important to people to know the value of every image, but for this photograph it will not just reveal the important values of the famous Dalí Atomicus in the past and in our present, but it has the meaning the history of the photograph, the importance of representing the story of the process and the figures, the history of the photographer, and at the end the first reaction on seeing this amazing masterpiece.

The photograph is famously known as Dali Atomicus, it was captured by the famous Russian photographer Philippe Halsman, who is well known by his work in the American Times magazine, and his portraits in 101 covers for LIFE magazine. He began his early photographing career in Paris and slowly got selected in the American Society of Magazine Photographers (ASMP) as the first president (Halsman, 2015). But after this wildly popular photo and taking photos of the famous Spanish surrealist artist Salvador Dali, his photographic legacy had lifted to the upper limits (Ali).

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In Dalí Atomicus photograph appears mystery and amazement that looks like something from the wild imagined mind, which seems to be quite fitting to the late '40s and were the surrealist Salvador Dali’s artistic mind or ideas can be seen and presented by the help of his friend Philippe Halsman, who's a well-known photographer that captured all of Dali’s famous photos and famous celebrities from the 1940-1950, but also it was happily to be seen one of Halsman’s work like this one which was captured in 1948 being wildly famous (Palumbo, 2018).

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Looking deeply into this amazing photo, and learning about its history through understanding the story of every object in the photo arrives an understatement about it, or what I would personally call it ' capturing ideas out of nowhere ' because of Halsman's mind for exploring new ideas, and being a true friend to Dali with a collaboration that lasted 37 years, he captured this magnificent photo with a style called portraiture, which is the style of photographing a person or a group of people by capturing their true personality (Goldberger , Moakley , & Pollack, 2016).

Knowing that Salvador Dali was a surrealist artist who is well known for his complicated personality, but for a lot of photographers wanting to capture him coasted a hard task for them to achieve. However, Philippe Halsman took the apriority to become a very close friend to Dali, and as a friend do they supported each other and became happy for their successes by creating amazing collaborations together, but the more intense requirements and ideas from Dali to Philippe to capture a photograph the more inspirations go flowing into Halsman's mind and one of that inspiration was Leda Atomica, which was one of the most important paintings from Dali in 1949 were Dali had to clarify to his friend the meaning of naming this painting ' I am a man of the atomic era, and I should be a painter of the atomic era' understanding the word atomics meaning that to have everything in suspension and having the Atoms to be frozen or not moving, and so having Philippe's early practices on a style called Jumpology, were he can capture the true essence of peoples personalities by making the subject jump then taking the elements were he can use them to make them suspended (TimesPhoto, 2016).

the creations appear to Halsman's mind for exploring new ideas are an easy thing for him to do, because of the practice of taking a lot of fascinating photos during his past years, due to that, this photograph had lots of effort and processed brainstorming, were at first Dali suggested having dynamite inside a duck's derriere and blow him up, but Philippe informed him that he would get arrested to that action, so they thought for a while and came up with 3 cats, some water, and having an invisible wires to hang the standing objects into air, following to locking the idea and the objects that had been select for photographing comes afterword the implementation since the Leda Atomica was hanging at the background into air with the other standing elements, it was hard for Mr. Halsman to capture the right composition at the moment, because as soon as he ends the countdown to capture the photo the assistants had to throw the cats to air and the water at the count of 3, and after 4 Dali had to be already jumped into thin air, in reveled that this proses took 26 tries to have the final and the perfect composition (TimesPhoto,2016).

Dali Atomicus have a really important history engraved into its own value, in other words it is more like an iconic image than the other verity of photos that both gentleman did took from the past, and it did stands up more as the present comes. Not just because it is a portrait of the famous artist Dali, but it is a portrait of the artist with the inspiration of his own painting Leda Atomicas which is slightly visible at the photograph from the right corner. Also it was the first photograph that started the whole genres of other celebrates to jump and do the same as photograph. Such as the present days were a lot of photographers are trying to mimic the same style, not just because Halsman did it or wanting to re-embrace his legacy, it is acutely theoretically one of hundred ways to capture the true essence of the person’s personality, as Halsman once said to the public “A true photographer wants to try to capture the real essence of a human being”, and after I learned a lot of photography and understands what makes a good picture a great Photograph it was all depends on the true moment and capturing the correct reaction from it (Goldberger , Moakley , & Pollack, 2016).

Since a lot of words could describe one specific reaction, but for this masterpiece, there were different reactions could be described at first, I thought about this photograph was captured in the mid-'50s, because it's black and white, looks old, and looks like this photograph was trying so hard to capture the future form of the elements and the humans, or trying to capture the imagined creation from human mind.


  1. Palumbo, J. (2018, October 08). The Story behind the Surreal Photograph of Salvador Dalí and Three Flying Cats. URL: ( ).
  2. Goldberger, B., Moakley, P., & Pollack, K. (2016). Dalí Atomicus | 100 Photographs | The Most Influential Images of All Time. Times magazine. URL: ( ).
  3. Photo, T. (2016, August 13). Retrieved July 22, 2019, from: ( ).
  4. Bello, S., & Halsman, I. (2015). Dali. Retrieved from: (
  5. Halsman, P. (2015). Philippe Halsmans Jump book. Bologna: Damiani. DOI: (file:///C:/Users/hp/Downloads/2014 - Astonish me! by Philippe Halsman EN.pdf).
  6. Ali, F. (n.d.). Salvador Dali (World Art Series). Culture Sector - Dar Akhbar Al Youm.
  7. Figure Captions
  8. PIC 1-1: Dalí Atomicus, Philippe Halsman, (1948). Retrived from:
  9. PIC 1-2: Philippe Halsman, Dali Atomicus,(1948). Retrived from:
Updated: Feb 02, 2024
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The Story Behind The Surreal Photograph Of Salvador Dalí. (2024, Feb 07). Retrieved from

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