Advancing Photographic Art
Through his experiments, Man Ray invented new photographic techniques. These techniques advanced photography from mere pictorial representation and reproduction to something that could be considered a malleable art form. Man Ray treated photography as he had treated his paintings. He retouched, reinvented, reversed, inverted and dramatically changed the original image into something new.
The Rayograph or Photogram
Man Ray invented the Rayograph or Photogram in early 1922. This technique was a way of capturing images without a camera. This effect is achieved by placing objects on photographic paper and then exposing them to light for a few seconds. The photographic paper is then processed in the normal way, achieving a reverse image. Christian Shad, who was part of the Zurich Dada group and had placed flat objects on sensitive paper, probably inspired Man Ray. Schad used no darkroom and his images tended to be akin to Cubist collages. Man Ray wanted more control over the image and used the darkroom technique so that his images would be fixed and he could experiment with three dimensional objects and shadows. Man Ray further advanced this technique by creating images that were both reversed and positive images.
In 1930, Man Ray invented Solarization with Lee Miller . This process had been discovered in 1857 but had only been discussed as a curiosity. At the time, Miller was a student of Man Ray and was in the darkroom developing images when she felt something move across her foot. In a panic, she switched on the light and exposed all the images. Man Ray saved the images and looked at them later. He discovered that backgrounds were dark but there was a clear line between the white body and the background. This is what he called Solarization. Man Ray worked on perfecting the technique. He experimented until he came up with a process that worked to dramatically affect his images. The technique was kept secret until 1933. In 1934, this technique was demonstrated at “The French Society of Photography." Man Ray and Lee Miller were credited with inventing Photographic Solarization for artistic purposes.
Man Ray's achievements as an artist and photographer owed much to his sheer spirit of discovery. Man Ray enjoyed experimenting and trying out new and different things and he continued to do this in Paris until 1940, when he returned to New York. Man Ray's last works were published in 1944 in Harper's Bazaar. Man Ray died in Paris on November 18, 1976.