Man Ray, whose real name was Emmanuel Rudnitsky, was born in Philadelphia in 1890 and died in Paris, in 1976. He was trained as a painter and a sculptor in New York and became interested in photography in 1915. He was one of the co-founders of the New York Dada group. In 1921 he went to Paris, where he became acquainted with the Surrealists. His experiments with photograms began in the 1920's. These "Rayographs", has he called them, are representative of the Dadaism in a medium that was not true photography nor true painting. He became also noted for his portraits of Parisian notables. His stance on the subject of art and photography was representative of the foremost views of his time and its' evolution mirrored the growing of this medium from a technology into a means of expressing art. There were many painters that used photography as a tool to further their painting, namely Eugene Delacroix, Gustave Courbert, Gauguin, Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec, Sheeler and Nash, while some painters crossed the line between the painting with brushes to a "painting with light". Man-Ray was one of them, probably the most consumate in doing so.
The master himself said:
"There are purists in all forms of expression. There are photographers who maintain that this medium has no relation to painting. There are painters who despise photography, although in the last century have been inspired by it and used it. There are architects who refuse to hang a painting in their buildings maintaining that their own work is a complete expression. In the same spirit, when the automobile arrived, there were those that declared the horse to be the most perfect form of locomotion. All these attitudes result from a fear that the one will replace the other. Nothing of the kind happened. We have simply increased our range, our vocabulary. I see no one trying to abolish the automobile because we have the airplane. I was very fortunate in starting my career as a painter. When first confronted with a camera, I was very much intimidated. So I decided to investigate. But I maintained the approach of a painter to such a degree that I have been accused of trying to make a photograph look like a painting. I did not have to try, it just turned out that way because of my background and training. Many years ago I had conceived the idea of making a painting look like a photograph! There was a valid reason for this. I wished to distract the attention from any manual dexterity, so that the basic idea stood out. Of course there will always be those who look at works with a magnifying glass and try to see "how", instead of using their brains and figure out "why". A book was once published of twenty photographs by twenty photographers, of the same model. They were as different as twenty paintings of the same model. Which was proof, once and for all, of the flexibility of the camera and its validity as an instrument of expression. There are many paintings and buildings that are not works of art. It is the man behind whatever instrument who determines the work of art."
"Some ot the most complete and satisfying works of art have been produced when their authors had no idea of creating a work of art, but were concerned with the expression of an idea. Nature does not create works of art. It is we, and the faculty of interpretation peculiar to the human mind, that see art."
Photo by Vasco Pinhol©