Dreams—universal in human experience, yet subjective and immaterial—present a challenge for visual art. Cinema and photography can register the uncanny “realness” of dreaming, but slumber conjures realities to which the camera enjoys no access. In 1930s Paris, a milieu deeply informed by the Surrealists’ devotion to the subconscious, both André Kertész and André Steiner photographed attractive models reflected in distorting mirrors. If the grotesques of earlier artists, such as Hieronymous Bosch, passed judgment on the state of the human soul, Steiner’s phantasms seem to have crawled straight out of fever dreams.
André Steiner (1901–1978), Anamorphose VII, 1933. Gelatin silver print. Purchased on the Photography Collectors Committee Fund, 2016.161.