• Not on view

Did you know you can make a photograph without using a camera? Man Ray made this picture by placing objects on light-sensitive paper, then shining a bright light over them. The shadows cast by each object are white and light gray. The artist called these images “rayographs,” naming them after himself. What objects can you recognize here?

Kids label from 2024
Additional text

Early in 1922, after leaving New York for Paris, Man Ray began to experiment with making camera-less “photos,” placing found objects upon photosensitized paper and exposing the arrangements to light. The immediacy of this process did away with the drawn-out steps of darkroom photography, addressing the goal Man Ray outlined when he wrote, “I am trying to make my photography automatic—to use my camera as I would a typewriter.” He nicknamed the results of his experiments “rayographs,” a combination of his name and the word “photograph.” This rayograph toys with the role of film in photography—instead of developing the film to create a photo in the traditional manner, Man Ray unspooled the roll across the light-sensitive paper to create a spiraling form.

Gallery label from 2019
Gelatin silver print
11 9/16 × 9 1/8" (29.4 × 23.2 cm)
Gift of James Thrall Soby
Object number
© 2024 Man Ray Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Installation views

We have identified these works in the following photos from our exhibition history.

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