Surrealism and Colour Documentary – Elephant Wallah

After looking at the work of Peter Dench and other surrealist colour photographers, I went out to have a go at getting a surrealist effect in my own photographs as well. I went to a Hatiwallah, a community that takes care of elephants that can be rented for weddings and other festivities. The community lives on the banks of the Yamuna river, right in the middle of Delhi and has been working there and taken care of these animals for generations. Because of pollution, awareness of animal rights and lack of grasslands to feed the elephants, their numbers have decreased considerably in the past years. Today, there are only about 5 left.

In order to bring a surrealist feeling in the photographs, I used different angles, tried to make compositions that bring otherwise unrelated objects together, and tried to bring a lot of colour and accents in the final post processing.

I had already noticed in the work that I researched that a lot has to do with the timing of the photograph, especially in Dench’s work, the photos always seem to be taken at the most unfortunate moments. My photographs don’t have this element, because there was not a whole lot going on and there weren’t too many people, so I tried to focus more on the composition and contrasts in the environment itself.







2 thoughts on “Surrealism and Colour Documentary – Elephant Wallah”

  1. I don’t feel equipped to comment on the ‘surreal’ aspect because I do struggle with it (as I know some other students have – thank goodness) but your images ae so interesting in themselves.Image 2 really strikes me with the mirroring of the elephant’s trunk and the dog’s leg. I would like to see it really large. You’ve made clever use of dog in the 4th one so that the relatives sizes of dog and elephant are reversed.
    Lively use of colour in the first one as well.


  2. Hi Leonie, Well done on tackling this, I have parked it for now as like Catherine, I struggle a bit with surrealism. I am currently re-reading Susan Sontag, On Photography and her take on surrealism seems to be anything out of the ordinary or slightly quirky and your imaged definitely fall under those headings.

    I love the way you have used different focal lengths and camera angles to stress or exaggerate the subjects, the big dog and small elephant for example and the seemingly tiny man under the elephant’s trunk. I may have to go and give it a go myself now!


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