Image Source photographer Adrian Myers visits the National Portrait Gallery to review their latest exhibition, Man Ray Portraits.
Man Ray. Born Michael Emmanuel Radnitzky in Philadelphia in 1890. He became one of the most inventive photographers of the 20th Century. Initially he worked as an artist in New Jersey between 1913-1916 before moving to Paris in 1921. In 1940 he moved back to the USA and settled in Los Angeles and Hollywood. Eventually in 1951 he moved back to Paris.
Man Ray Portraits at the National Portrait Gallery 7th February-27th May 2013
The exhibition charts the different sections of Man Ray’s life from New York 1916- 1920 and his early work of Marcel Duchamp. Paris 1921-1928 when he photographed his muse and actress Kiki. Paris 1929-1937 when he photographed the model and photographer Lee Miller then 1940-1950 his Hollywood work and Paris 1951 – Later years.
The most significant period must undoubtedly be Paris 1929-1937 when he photographed the model and photographer Lee Miller with whom he first started to work with the solarisation technique. The first example being his solarised portrait of Lee Miller c.1929. His work during this period has a far more intimate feel than his early work and the tone of many of his portraits from this time are simply beautiful. Favourites for me are Man Ray (asleep) 1930, Le Corbusier 1930, Self-portrait with Camera 1930, Pablo Picasso 1933, Dora Maar 1936 to pick out only a few. 1933 also sees his first use of colour for his portrait of Genica Athanasiou.
The intimacy and inventiveness for his time and his constant push to try new things both in the studio and in the dark room. We take many of the techniques he used for granted now but the reality is that he was the first to use many of them.
Which Image? Which Room?
Hard Choice but I think it would have to be Self-portrait with Camera 1930. The solarisation, the master at work – perfect! Where would I hang it? Pride of place in my office.
One question for the Image Maker?
What couldn’t he do with Photoshop?