A Cross-Cultural Reimagining of René Magritte

How one man is adding a multicultural flair to the Belgian surrealist’s art

Photographs by Hayden M. Greene: Top L, “Clairvoyant” reimagined (view original Magritte here); Top R, “Treachery of Images” reimagined (view original here); Bottom L, “Golconda” reimagined (view original here); Bottom R, “The Pleasure Principle” reimagined (view original here)

UK-born Brooklyn photographer Hayden M. Greene hails from Trinidad and Tobago. Always a fan of surrealist art, Belgian surrealist René Magritte is one of his favorites. Greene became aware of Magritte when the artist’s piece “Son of Man” was featured in the movie The Thomas Crown Affair.

“Son of Man” is oft considered Magritte’s most famous and compelling painting. The circa 1964 work portrays a man in a dark overcoat wearing a black bowler-style hat, as he faces straight ahead whilst standing in front of a low wall with a bright blue sea and cloud-filled sky behind it. The man’s face is all but obscured by a large, hovering, green apple. In a 1965 radio appearance with interviewer Jean Neyens, Magritte described the essence of the painting in a way Culturs readers can very much relate:

It hides the face partly well, so you have the apparent face, the apple, hiding the visible but hidden, the face of the person. It’s something that happens constantly. Everything we see hides another thing. We always want to see what is hidden by what we see. There is an interest in that which is hidden and which the visible does not show us. This interest can take the form of a quite intense feeling, a sort of conflict, one might say, between the visible that is hidden and the visible that is present.

Photographed by Hayden M. Greene: “Son of Man” reimagined (View original Magritte here)

Perhaps that’s one of the reasons Greene, who carries hidden diversity himself — born to Trinidadian parents, moved to the Brooklyn at age 3, then to Trinidad and Tobago at age 9, then back to the United States at 18 to attend university — was haunted by Magritte’s work for decades. This year, Greene decided to pay homage to the Belgian artist with a project called “Magritte Reimagined.”

Recreating Magritte’s original work as photographs, presenting them with a modern eye, Greene’s project also pays homage to the history of photography. In the same way Magritte focused on objects from the natural world, Greene’s reimagined images contain classic cameras and photographic equipment.

Photographs by Hayden M. Greene: Top L, “The False Mirror” reimagined (view original here); Top R, “Seducer” reimagined (view original here); Bottom, “Not to Be Reproduced” reimagined (view original here)

Greene also worked to include subjects who are members of the nine historically Black fraternities and sororities of the National Pan Hellenic Council (NPHC). This, for the photographer, broadened the scope of appreciation for the original work, exposing it to a wider audience and adding a multicultural flair to the work of the original surrealism.

“Magritte Reimagined” represents years of creative work from award-winning Greene. His flair for the ironic and use of images to tell stories is born out of a love for spoken word.

See more of Greene’s work at Barataria Gallery in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, New York.

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