Special Techniques/Panorama


‘The Persistence of Memory’ – Salvador Dali

The Persistence of Memory

Salvador Dali did a painting in 1931 named ‘The Persistence of Memory’ it was first shown at the Julien Levy Gallery in 1932. The Museum of Modern Art in New York City has had this painting in its collection since 1934. It is one of his most recognizable works.

Salvador Dali introduced the image of a soft melting pocket watch in his surrealist piece ‘The Persistence of Memory’. At the time Dali had a theory of ‘softness and hardness’ which is portrayed in this painting.

Dawn Ades the author of Dali had written “The soft watches are an unconscious symbol of the relativity of space and time, a Surrealist meditation on the collapse of our notions of a fixed cosmic order”. This interpretation suggests it was inspired by Albert Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity however Dali claimed this was not the case in fact it was a surrealist perception of a Camembert cheese melting in the sun.

Dali used a strange ‘monster’ in some period pieces to represent himself almost as though it is a self-portrait in abstract from. This painting in the middle of the composition you can see a recognisable human figure that is possibly a representation of the strange ‘monster’. The strange ‘monster’ is also recognised as a ‘fading’ creature. It is almost as though the viewer is looking into a dream where they cannot pinpoint an exact form or composition. The way the creature has been painted makes it look like it too is in a dreamlike state.

In the bottom left of the painting there is an orange clock covered in ants. Ants reoccur in a lot of Dali’s paintings often representing death or female genitalia. In this painting the iconography could be a reflection of a dream experience that Dali once had. The clocks could represent the passing of time during sleep or the persistence of time.

In this painting the “exactitude of realist painting techniques” have been used to portray imagery that is most likely to be found in dreams than in waking consciousness.

The landscape in the painting has been modelled after Cap de Creus Peninsula in north-eastern Catalonia. There is also a reference to Mount Pani. A lot of the landscapes in Dali’s work have been influenced by his life in Catalonia.

Salvador Dali

Salvador Dali is a Spanish surrealist painter born in 1904 Figueres, Spain. Dali is best known for his surreal work involving striking and bizarre images. His best well-known piece is The Persistence of memory completed in 1931. Not only has Dali created paintings he has also done film, sculpture, and photography, in collaboration with a range of artists in a variety of media. Dali was highly imaginative, had unusual and elaborate behaviour.

World War II 

In the 1940’s World War II hit Europe, Dali then moved to the United States. In 1942 he published his autobiography ‘The Secret Life of Salvador Dali’. Dali’s ideas about painting changed because of World War II. He became obsessed with the splitting of the atom and leader of the German scientists Werner Karl Heisenberg who failed to develop an atomic bomb.

In 1951 Dali did a painting named ‘Raphaelesque Head Exploding’. The painting was of Raphaelesque head that had blown apart into many pieces floating around like cascading atoms. The surrealist side to the painting was the flying particles that have been made to look like tiny rhinoceros horn. Dali said these are symbols of chastity. Dali named his new style ‘Nuclear Mysticism’.

Before the Spanish Civil War began Dali painted ‘Soft Construction with Boiled Beans’ which was a premonition of Civil War. In this painting Dali has painted a tormented figure tearing itself apart, Dali called it “a delirium of auto strangulation.” The painting was a powerful anti-war statement.

The Frozen Moment Constructed and Captured

This image of the Vietnam War was photographed by Horst Fass a Vietnam War photographer in 1964. Horst Fass is a German photojournalist who is best known for the images of the Vietnam War. The Pulitzer Prize was awarded to Horst Fass for his combat photos of the war in South Vietnam during 1964. This is one of the images that Horst Fass took. There are a dozen US army helicopters pouring machine gun fire into the trees ahead to clear the path for the advancing south Vietnamese ground troops. They are making an attack on a viet cong camp. The camp is based 18 miles north of Tay Ninh, Vietnam, northwest of Saigon near the Cambodian border. Even though they are clearly helicopters at first glance they look almost bug like as though they are gaint bugs flying around the humans below. The blurred propellers show movement in the image giving a very daunting atmosphere. The men below look as though they are in a rush and look frantic. The smoke desending from the trees makes the photograph misty and bleak which makes the atmosphere quite horrific as they are not able to see what they are walking into. This is a frozen moment in history and even though the image seems still there is so much energy and noise steming from with in it.

Lens Type/Sports

Here I have used various lenses to images based on the theme Sport. I used a macro lens and a fish eye lens to experiment with. I used my tennis racket as the subject. The macro lens was interesting as I had to go extremely to the racket to get it in focus. The fish eye lens distorted the racket making it curved which was fascinating.

Aperture/German Market

Here I have experimented with the aperture setting again but this time it was based on the theme markets. I used the Annual Christmas German Market to take my photos of. It was a good way to the perfect depth of field as there are so many stalls with stacks of objects, making the image busy but your attention is only drawn to part of  the image.

Artificial Lighting/Halloween

Here I have taken images exploring the use of artificial lighting based on the theme Halloween. For my artificial light sources I used a candle and the flash on my camera. The candle created a strange eerie atmosphere whereas the flash made the image more dynamic.


Today we looked at aperture. We were shown a series of images with the correct exposure but focused on the aperture setting. Our task was to capture images of road signs using different aperture settings.