Photo Corners

A   S C R A P B O O K   O F   S O L U T I O N S   F O R   T H E   P H O T O G R A P H E R

Enhancing the enjoyment of taking pictures with news that matters, features that entertain and images that delight. Published frequently.

Matinee: 'Man Ray, The Man Who Invented Himself' Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

28 December 2013

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the thirteenth in our series of Saturday matinees today: Man Ray, The Man Who Invented Himself.

Directed by Chris Granlund, this 40-minute BBC Late Show film was made in 1995 using clips from his films, stills of his paintings and photos plus contributions from his friends, his family and art experts. He appears in the film himself as well, discussing his life and work.

Was he a photographer or a painter? He was both. He painted what he could not photograph, he said. But he came to photography because he wanted to document his paintings. Immediately, though, he "got it" -- photography made something different from a copy.

That was just the beginning.

He moved from New York to Paris, photographing portraits of the leading artists of the 1920s before inventing his rayographs. Naomi Savage, his niece, demonstrates how to make a rayograph with two Slinkies and a film holder in the film. The process, as she admits, was not unknown, but he made it his own, applying the technique to his fashion work.

Painting, photography and film were all in his toolbox simultaneously, making an argument for photography as art a bit differently from other photographers of his time.

Kiki, whose makeup he put on, and Lee Miller, who was involved in their discovery of solarization, make their appearance halfway through the film. Kiki was a creation but Miller, who herself became an important photographer, was more.

The relationship, however, didn't go the way Man Ray hoped. Miller was "her own person" and went her own way. Man Ray expressed his despair in his art. You can invent yourself more easily, apparently, than you can invent a relationship. For that you can only dream.

"The world is full of wonderful craftsman," he complained, "but there are very few practical dreamers."

He did marry in 1946, spending half his life with the former Juliet Browner, who speaks in the film about watching her husband sketch his dreams in the morning and then painting them later in the day.

We can't imagine a better invention.

BackBack to Photo Corners