The longevity of Man Ray’s career, spanning more than 50 years, is just one of the reasons the Philadelphian is such an important figure in photography’s history, beginning way back in the early days when a cameraman stood behind his apparatus and threw a blanket over his head to take a shot, and ending just as the swinging 1960s took its final breaths.
Ray, a first generation Russian Jew who simplified his name in response to discrimination but which became an inspired piece of self branding, was initially a multi-format artist, but began to focus on photography around 1916. Inspired by one of his mentors, the notoriously outré Marquis De Sade, Ray was drawn into the world of female eroticism, and the work that followed forms the bulk of this retrospective, Man Ray Portraits, at London’s National Portrait Gallery. Often using figures from the artistic and literary worlds as his subjects, Ray experimented heavily with composition and development technique, which sets his work apart and lends many images an almost otherwordly quality. Opening on 7th February, the exhibition will run until 27th May.
Henry Crowder, 1928 by Man Ray. Collection du Centre Pompidou, Mnam/Cci, Paris, AM 1994-394 (463) © Man Ray Trust / ADAGP, Paris © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN / image Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI
Juliet,1947 by Man Ray. Collection Timothy Baum, New York © Man Ray Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP/DACS
Man Ray Self-Portrait with Camera, 1932 by Man Ray. The Jewish Museum, New York, Purchase: Photography Acquisitions Committee Fund, Horace W. Goldsmith Fund, and Judith and Jack Stern Gift, 2004-16. Photo by Richard Goodbody, Inc © 2008 Man Ray Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY / ADAGP, Paris 2012 © Photo The Jewish Museum
Barbette, 1926 by Man Ray. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 84.XM.1000.39 © Man Ray Trust ARS-ADAGP
Le Violon d’Ingres, 1924 by Man Ray. Museum Ludwig Cologne, Photography Collections (Collection Gruber) © Man Ray Trust / ADAGP © Copy Photograph Rheinisches Bildarchiv Köln
Ithell Colquhoun, 1932 by Man Ray. Collection du Centre Pompidou, Mnam/Cci, Paris, AM 1994-394 (3461) © Man Ray Trust / ADAGP, Paris © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN/ Guy Carrard
Catherine Deneuve, 1968 by Man Ray. Private Lender © Man Ray Trust ARS-ADAGP / DACS
Lee Miller, 1930 by Man Ray. The Penrose Collection © Man Ray Trust/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2012, courtesy The Penrose Collection. Image courtesy the Lee Miller Archives