One of Ida Kar’s most iconic photographs shows a cast of two female hands, perfectly detailed, emerging from a dark background. The palms are cupped to form a hollow, framed by a rim of unpolished material. This small sculpture bears every resemblance to a religious relic or precious archaeological artefact, but the photograph’s title, Surreal Study (1947), suspends all definitive interpretation. In keeping with the Surrealist notion of dépaysement (defamiliarisation), we might see this sacred gesture as a symbol of motherhood, or as the trace of a magical metamorphosis. Both in Egypt, where Kar had been an active member of the Surrealist group Art et Liberté, and during her years in Paris, she built a photographic practice aimed at overturning all semantic hierarchies. In the 1930s and 1940s, the artist took a series of photographs that depict more or less ordinary objects, yet suggest an alternative – often emotional – interpretation of their features. L’Étreinte (1940), for instance, shows two animal bones still joined by shreds of flesh and standing next to each other like, as the title suggests, two embracing figures. Kar’s photographic eye has plucked these white remains from their original context and infused them with the dramatic, introspective narrative pathos that became her stylistic hallmark.