Karl Taylor’s Recreation of ‘Dali Atomicus’ on the BBC
‘Dali Atomicus’. This iconic image has been a favourite of mine for as long as I remember and it is probably the root of my own interest and specialisation in photographing fast moving liquids and smashing objects.
Watch the video: Part 1
Watch the video: Part 2
I have been a photographer professionally for 25 years, having started a career in photojournalism in the early to mid 90’s but then moving into advertising and commercial photography in 1997. The essence of freezing time and studying it might sound like a bit of a cliché but it really is the thing that drew me to photography, from when I first picked up a camera aged 17 and photographed a horse galloping along a beach with the moment frozen perfectly I became hooked.
Since way back then I have seen many changes in photography from the days of film and dark rooms through to today’s digital age. But one thing always holds true; an image has to captivate you and this is where Philippe Halsman’s images succeed so well. Halsman like the work of Irving Penn has come to influence so much of modern day photography, their images remain timeless because of their ability to hold the viewers interest and like my own work they apply minimal retouching to achieve the purpose.
With ‘Atomicus’ you will find several attempts to arrive at the final image and this is a common theme with this type of photography. In my own work when you have objects and liquids flying through the air it is rarely possible to achieve the result on the first shot. It is necessary to repeat the process through careful planning and preparation and through repetition you arrive at the image originally visualised.
To do the image justice I wanted to come as close as possible to the original, although without the flying cats as I’m not sure this would go down to well with the BBC One Show audience! To achieve this my plan would be to build a corner set with walls and skirting board to match that of the original image.
As clocks and bread have featured in Dali’s paintings I felt it would be a fitting tribute to replace the cats with a clock in the air and a toaster. All of these items are controlled and hung with wires (as in the original) but it would require multiple attempts at capturing the water and the artist/actor in mid air.
Finally I also wanted to add another slight twist to the image. In the originals it is possible to see other people on the edge of the set that are assisting with throwing or holding objects which I find interesting. So I aimed to shoot a wider area that also includes additional objects and people into the shot so that we can crop into the shot to achieve a close match to the original but also pull out on the shot to reveal something original.
There was a huge amount of preparation and calculation as this two-part video reveals, but I feel very excited that the team and I reproduced such an accurate depiction of the 1948 original in tribute to both Philippe Halsman and Salvador Dali.
I wanted a new twist in our recreation but paid homage to the original where you can also see assistants and crew at the edges of the shot.
Here is a crop of my recreation to match the crop of the original.