“An image is the beginning of the imagination.”
Such was the modus operandi for Swiss photographer Jean Clemmer (b. 1926, d. 2001) and such was the basis for his friendship with Spanish surrealist Salvador Dalí (b. 1904, d. 1989). Borne of a chance encounter in Paris 1962, Clemmer and Dalí’s relationship proved to extend far beyond conviviality to their respective creative realms. The following years saw the artists recluse themselves to the Catalan resort of Cadaqués, where they had created an imaginary world of their own—a space where all their most delirious and climactic ideas could be realized in the form of photographic series and films. Thus emerged the unique technique of photographic Metamorphosis, wherein seemingly disparate images are super-imposed (read: sandwiched) over each other to create a wildly imagined image. Eventually, this technique would inform some of Clemmer’s most famous works, including his nude series with designer Paco Rabanne in 1969. As best summarized by Clemmer, himself, “photography is a privilege” in that it has the power to break down the boundaries between the real and surreal worlds.
Salvador Dalí, Jean Clemmer: An Encounter, A Work invites the public into this dreamy, exclusive world. Curated by the Fondazione Sozzani in collaboration with the Jean Clemmer Archive, a 42-strong series is on sale at New York City’s 10 Corso Como gallery including Dalí and Clemmer’s metamorphosized images, photographs of their time together in Catalonia and, crucially, the only photographic evidence in existence of their movie, Le Divin Dalí, whose rolls were destroyed in a fire shortly after their filming. Each image is as rare, wondrous and otherworldly as the next thanks to Salvador Dalí's direction, Jean Clemmer's camerawork and modeling courtesy of both Dalí and a young street woman whom they simply named Ginesta (meaning "Small Wildflower"). Crossing the motifs of science, magic, eroticism, and religion, expect to see chickpeas being poured down suspended naked bodies, Dalí’s unrelenting stare super-imposed on female silhouettes as well as iconic images of Dalí simply being Dalí.
And so it comes full circle: theirs was an unlikely friendship turned iconic collaboration—a true embodiment of artistic metamorphosis.