Photographer Recreates Philippe Halsman’s Iconic 1948 “Dalí Atomicus” Image

Dali Atomicus Recreation by Karl Taylor

Philippe Halsman's 1948 portrait of surrealist painter Salvador Dalí—entitled Dalí Atomicus—is one of the art world’s most famous images. Guernsey-based photographer Karl Taylor was so inspired by the iconic photo, he decided to create his own modern version. He explains, “It has been a favorite of mine for as long as I remember and it is probably the root of my own interest and specialization in photographing fast moving liquids and smashing objects.”

The surreal composition and precise timing of Dalí Atomicus perfectly captures the essence of the world famous artist. Inspired by Dalí's own Leda Atomica painting, the image explores idea of suspension. Out-of-the-ordinary props—including the original painting, a floating chair, a splash of water in motion, a footstool, an easel, three flying cats, and last but not least, Dalí himself—are all suspended in mid-air, completing the dreamlike scene. Taking the assembled production cast 28 takes to get it right, the final result was published in LIFE magazine in 1948.

For Karl Taylor’s modern recreation, he chose to replace the flying cats with a toaster and a “melting” clock inspired by Dalí's The Persistence of Memory painting. First, Taylor’s team got to work building the background walls, using the original image as reference. After setting up the props, the next task was the figure out how to recreate the lighting and shadows. The objects were illuminated from all directions with industrial Flooter lights and beams.

The next challenge was to capture the Dalí look-alike in midair, as well as the water in motion, which artist Adebanji had the task of throwing from a bucket, over and over again. Taylor achieved his uncanny replicate in 29 takes—one shot more than the original—while the BBC documented the entire process.

Photographer Karl Taylor recreated the iconic 1948 Dalí Atomicus by Philippe Halsman.

Dali Atomicus Recreation by Karl Taylor

“Dali Atomicus” by Philippe Halsman

Dali Atomicus Recreation by Karl Taylor

Philippe Halsman’s original series of shots with author notes.

Although he chose to replace the flying cats with different props, his modern version is impressively close to the original.

Dali Atomicus Recreation by Karl Taylor

Watch the behind-the-scenes footage to find out how he achieved the final image.

Karl Taylor: Website | Instagram | Facebook
h/t: [Fstoppers]

All images via Karl Taylor.

Related Articles:

Art History: Salvador Dalí’s Strange and Surreal ‘Persistence of Memory’

Salvador Dalí’s Rarely Seen ‘Alice in Wonderland’ Illustrations Are Finally Reissued

Salvador Dalí’s Eccentric Cookbook Is Being Reissued for the First Time in Over 40 Years

Artist Recreates Famous Photos Out of Colorful Children's Play Doh

Emma Taggart

Emma Taggart is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met. Originally from Northern Ireland, she is an artist now based in Berlin. After graduating with a BA in Fashion and Textile Design in 2013, Emma decided to combine her love of art with her passion for writing. Emma has contributed to various art and culture publications, with an aim to promote and share the work of inspiring modern creatives. While she writes every day, she’s also devoted to her own creative outlet—Emma hand-draws illustrations and is currently learning 2D animation.
Become a
My Modern Met Member
As a member, you'll join us in our effort to support the arts.
Become a Member
Explore member benefits

Sponsored Content