By turns sensual and otherworldly, de Dienes’ nude photographs could be separated into two categories: one, a nod to the classic nude; the other, an avant-garde experimentation. That poetic feeling he described, which predominantly permeates his more experimental work, was influenced by his Surrealist precedents, and particularly the photographer André Kertész.
A fellow Hungarian, Kertész began photographing nudes in an experimental series called Distortions in 1933, the same year that de Dienes arrived in Paris. First shot for the Parisian gentleman’s magazine Le Sourire, Kertész photographed models through the reflections of funhouse mirrors, their bodies liquefying into unrecognizable forms (fig. 6). While Kertész never officially joined the Surrealists, the series was undoubtedly inspired by the cultural milieu pervading Paris through the 1920s and 30s thanks to André Breton, nicknamed the “Pope” of Surrealism.
Rejecting the nineteenth century precedent that all art should aspire to the condition of music, Breton instead declared that “visual images attain what music never can.” Photography, he said, should be an aversion to the “real” forms of “real” objects; an unusual stance to take, considering the still-young medium was regarded as a true capture of reality, a parallel glimpse of the natural order of things. By using mirrors to bend the world around him, Kertész upended that natural order, turning women into chimerical forms.