Man Ray (Emmanuel Radnitzky)

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Man Ray (Emmanuel Radnitzky). Rayograph. 1923. Gelatin silver print, 11 9/16 x 9 1/4" (29.4 x 23.5 cm). Gift of James Thrall Soby. © 2014 Man Ray Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Audio Program excerpt


June 18–September 11, 2006

Narrator: Rayograph was Man Ray's term for his own style of camera-less photography. By placing objects directly onto light-sensitive paper and exposing it, he was able to create ghostly, near-abstract images. Here he has used a strip of 35-mm movie film.

Curator, Anne Umland: It's like creating an assemblage of sorts on a horizontal plane. If you look very closely at the work, tracing with your eye the spirals formed by the film and focusing in on the individual frames, you can see repeated over and over the nude figure of a woman that appears before a window with shadows cast over her form and that is recognizably from Return to Reason, one of Man Ray's great Dada period films.

Return to Reason was filled with cinematic extensions of the rayographs on a larger moving scale. In many of the other rayographs that you see nearby, the subjects are rendered almost unrecognizable. There's this strange back and forth, they are uncanny, or strangely familiar. There is always this sense of contact, of contiguity with the real, but at the same time, of the real reformed into something that borders on the unrecognizable.