The Subversion of Images: Notes Illustrated with Nineteen Photographs by the Author, by Paul Nougé / ISBN 9781939663474 / small 58-page paperback with flaps from Wakefield Press
This classic surrealist photobook pioneered the imagery of the domestic uncanny
First edited and published by Marcel Marien in 1968 in a limited edition of 230 copies, half a year after Paul Nougé’s death, The Subversion of Images is a miniature classic in both the photobook and surrealist canons. It collects Nougé’s notes and photographs from 1929–30 to form a guidebook to the surrealist image. Nougé here outlines his conception of the object and the surrealist approach to it, while also offering an accompaniment to the visual work of his colleague, René Magritte, whose paintings he sometimes titled. How might a tangle of string elicit terror? How might the suppression of an object move one to sentimentality? What is the effect of a pair of gloves on a loaf of sliced bread?
Nougé’s accompanying photographs explore these notions, and feature a number of his Belgian surrealist colleagues. This translation is presented as a facsimile of the original edition, with an afterword by Xavier Canonne, director of the Musée de la Photographie.
A biochemist by trade, Paul Nougé (1895–1967) was a leading light of Belgian surrealism and its primary theorist, as well as a decisive influence on such Lettrists and Situationists as Guy Debord and Gil J. Wolman, who would take inspiration from his conception of plagiarism for what would come to be termed “détournement.” Nougé steered the Brussels surrealist group toward a more rational approach to visual and verbal language that discarded the Parisian surrealists’ proclivity for irrationality and occultism.