Who was Man Ray? He was born Emmanuel Radnitzky in 1890, an American painter and sculptor. Early in his career, he set off for France, which seemed to him then the centre of new ideas in the art world. There he came across the Dadaist and Surrealist poets and artists, who became his circle of friends. Although he considered himself a painter, he began to use photography to document his artworks, and then to portray these friends.
Man Ray believed photography “operated in the gap between art and life”. As he put it, “I would rather photograph an idea than an object, a dream rather than an idea”.
He became one of France’s most intriguing surreal portraitists, by “juxtaposing sitters with objects, importing patterns and phantoms, pouncing on accidents…”
As Man Ray took more and more photographs, especially of his friends, his interest in this medium grew. He realized he could experiment with photography as an art form: he could manipulate its formal qualities and play with visual effects and possibilities. He would sometimes alter the original photograph to dramatically express the character of his sitters; at other times he enhanced the appearance of the sitters themselves – before taking the photograph.