When we think of surrealism, the greats usually come to mind—whether it’s stunning black and white photos by Man Ray, or the melting clocks painted by Salvador Dali. But recently, and on Instagram, a number of artists are using photography to make surrealist images through digital collages.

As we know it, surrealism combines the dream world with reality in seamless ways—it’s like dreaming when you’re awake. It’s a pastiche of layered images that don't always belong together, like seaweed in the sky or oceans in our teacups. Artists are using collage—digital or cut and paste—to create otherworldly images. Here's five surrealist artists using vintage photography in their collages, and each of their individual approaches to surrealism, and how it relates to being otherworldly, futuristic and fun.

1. Eugenia Loli

 
 
 
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Imagine a sparkle-faced man kissing a woman from a 1950s vintage magazine ad, or a mountain landscape taken over by coral reef. This is just the start of Greek artist Eugenia Loli, who creates surrealist collages from old scans photos from vintage magazines and uses them for her digital collages. Essentially, Loli is channeling a similar technique the artists from the Dada era used - creating unlikely visual narratives which tap into surrealism.

 
 
 
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She says: “I got into making collages because I loved Julien Pacaud’s illustrations, and I’d have to say, Rene Magritte is an influence. I collage on many different styles: from “pop” to dada, and from modern illustrations to traditional surrealism. I don’t believe that artists should ‘find their style,’ that’s artistic death.”

2. Yegor Zhuldybin

 
 
 
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The Russian artist is known for creating digital collages, which he calls "contemporary surrealism." Each image combines a trippy, op art-esque patterned background (strips, polka dots or checkered circles) with retro and futuristic elements, like old apartment towers, postcard imagery or even dinosaurs from illustration books.

 
 
 
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The artist lives in the small city of Krasnoyarsk, and over the past five years, he has been creating digital collages. “My main principles when creating works are aesthetics, rich colors, the use of optical illusions, and the creation of ‘new amazing worlds,’” he says. “I devote time to collages almost every day and have already created more than 500 works.”

3. Khan Nova

 
 
 
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French artist Khan Nova, aka Mathieu Saunier, creates otherworldly colleges that fuse together pop culture figures with space imagery. It's what he calls retro sci-fi surrealist collages that use desert landscapes, dreamy clouds and images of modern music and movie stars. It's otherworldly with an empowering edge, showing each star in an awe-worthy light. It calls to mind the album art of Daft Punk, or even Kraftwerk.

 
 
 
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“My art is based on the refusal of all logical constructions of the mind and on the values of the irrational,” says Saunier. “I Imagine scenes of everyday life that may not exist for several centuries or millennia. Humans have always looked at the sky and imagined what might be there. It comes from the desire to create the unreal.”

4. Matt McCarthy

 
 
 
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North Carolina-based artist Matt McCarthy specializes in digital collages. Specifically, it’s what he calls “cat surrealism.” He uses contemporary photos of cats, whether its cat naps along skyscrapers or cats yawning along the Great Wall of China, combined with his Photoshop skills, for comic relief. Each is a Godzilla-sized cat and is placed in unlikely places, be it the beach, along world-famous monuments or in outer space.

The artist says that his inspiration to start this series is his black cat Atticus, who he uses for his own collages, among other cats. “I require reference material for both forms of collage, whether it be public domain images I find on the web or vintage source material like postcards and books,” he says. “One of my favorite parts of collage is the use of pre-existing materials. It feels good to give objects a new home and repurpose them into something unique and beautiful.”

5. Lara Zankoul

 
 
 
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The Beirut-based artist uses photography in surrealist ways, whether its painted hands, people flying through clouds or portraits taken underwater. This surrealist artist uses a Hasselblad and creates photos that tell stories. She doesn't use Photoshop as a basis for her works, but rather, transforms actual spaces into dreamy locations with faux clouds and tubs filled with water for models to dive into. For example, for one photo she created an installation in an abandoned home on Gemmayze, a street in Beirut, which was later demolished.

 
 
 
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“This work took a whole new dimension for me which is the dream to preserve the Lebanese architectural heritage,” she said. “The aim is to invite the viewers to come up with their own interpretation and understanding of the photographs and the stories behind them. My work is heavily based on experimentation and building worlds within worlds to create moments, rather than just document them.”

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