Man Ray

Biography of Man Ray

Man Ray (born Emmanuel Radnitzky) was an American artist most widely recognized for his innovative photographic techniques and intriguing photographic style. He was a contributor to both the Dada and Surrealist movements and was a very important figure in the popularization of Surrealism. While his technical experiments with a camera are now what he is primarily remembered for, Man Ray always regarded himself as first and foremost a painter.


Born in 1890, Man Ray grew up in New York. He was exposed to the work of European avant-garde artists such as Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque at Alfred Stieglitz’s gallery. He was a life-long friend of Marcel Duchamp and moved to Paris in 1915 where he met Andre Breton and the other Surrealists in the early 1920s.


Alongside his profound contributions to fashion photography, Man Ray also pioneered the medium, creating what he called “Rayographs.” Made by exposing photo-sensitive paper directly to light, Rayographs or pictograms as they are also referred to, are essentially camera-less photographs. Any objects placed on the paper will leave a white silhouette, while the exposed areas will be left black. The resulting effect is often depthless and surreal, enabling a new way of seeing.


In 1974, just before his death in 1976, Man Ray was awarded the Royal Photographic Society’s Progress Medal. His work was recently displayed at the Tate Modern in London as part of an exhibition that looked at the modern photography collection of Sir Elton John titled The Radical Eye. Solo exhibitions of his work have been held at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh, the Museum of Modern Art in New York and Martin-Gropius Bau in Berlin.

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