Born Emmanuel Radnitsky in 1890 in Philadelphia, U.S.A, Man Ray changed his name in his early twenties. His talents were obvious, even in childhood as he was skilled in building, repairing, inventing and drawing. After rejecting a scholarship to study architecture, he supported himself as a commercial artist and draftsman while taking night classes in art at various New York schools. Man Ray was a frequent visitor to Alfred Steiglitz’s gallery and spent long hours discussing art with his mentor, Robert Henri. At the age of 25, he had his first solo show which reflected his Cubist influences, a movement which he had studied avidly.
After meeting Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray bought his first camera. His friendship with Duchamp lasted more than fifty years and it was Duchamp who encouraged his move to Paris in 1921. Man Ray spent the rest of his life there, becoming an important and influential member of the Parisian Surrealist and Dadaist circles.
Man Ray is known for his experimentation with almost every medium. His art expresses complicated puns and shocking subtexts. His close friendships with artists of all disciplines were crucial in promoting a progressive dialog within Modernism on the merits of photography as an art form. With Lee Miller, Man Ray developed the photographic solarization process that he used in his portraits and nudes. By the time of his death, in Paris aged 86, photography and his techniques had emerged not only as an accepted art form but as a universal form of visual communication.
We are able to access most of Man Ray’s images, such as his most well known that include “Noir et Blanc”, “Le Vilon d’Ingres”, “Les Larmes” and images of fellow friend and photographer, Lee Miller.