4 thoughts on “Dalí Atomicus”

  1. How in the hell did they do that you might ask.

    Halsman set up his New York studio and using the 4 x 5 format, twin-lens reflex camera that he had designed in 1947 (Bello 206), he prepared to capture one of his most memorable photographs. He suspended an easel, two paintings by Dali (one of which was ?Leda Atomica?), and a stepping stool; had his wife, Yvonne, hold a chair in the air (Jeffrey 192); on the count of three, his assistants threw three cats and a bucket of water into the air; and on the count of four, Dali jumped and Halsman snapped the picture. While his assistants mopped the floor and consoled the cats, Halsman went to the darkroom, developed the film, and reemerged to do it again. ?Six hours and twenty-eight throws later, the result satisfied my striving for perfection,? wrote Halsman in his book Halsman on the Creation of Photographic Ideas. ?My assistants and I were wet, dirty, and near complete exhaustion?only the cats still looked like new.?


    some background as to why they chose these particular objects:

    It was shortly after World War II and the world had just been shoved violently into the atomic era. Dali’s surreal paintings, at that time, conceptually portrayed the idea of the atom and how, through the repulsion of protons and electrons, everything was constantly in a state of suspension. The day after Halsman and Dali discussed ?Leda Atomica? for the first time, Halsman contacted Dali about the idea he had for a photograph (Halsman, Philippe 54).

    The two worked together on the concept for the photo, as they often did after meeting each other in the early 1940s (Halsman, Yvonne 12). The two artists had Harold Edgerton’s ?Coronet? milk drop photo, from the 1930s, at the forefront of their discussions. They were mesmerized by the idea of suspension captured in it. They argued back and forth on aspects such as blowing up a chicken and whether to use milk or water (Halsman, Philippe 54-55). Wanting to avoid animal cruelty laws in the United States and knowing that the photograph would be shown in Europe, where people wouldn’t relish the idea of wasting milk, they agreed to use unharmed cats and water for the photograph.

  2. I’m not surprised so much by how they did it, what always gets me is what a perfect result they achieved. It’s a great composition, with Dali and the cats positioned in exactly the right places and that graceful arc of water floating across the whole scene. Extraordinary.

  3. Lol, thx for the wonderful picture, I almost thought it was yet another painting of Dali himself. You can read and see so much from (or about) Dali and still discover new things every day.

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