To really understand Rayograms, i think one needs to experience it. It is not just about playing with objects on photographic paper in a darkroom. It definitely is more than that.
My first experience with Rayograms was in my second year of high school in Switzerland. It was so new to me. I knew nothing about darkrooms let alone photograms. As a first reaction I went out to the nature and collected whatever i found to be interesting. There were leaves, branches, beads whatever one can find. After playing around enough, i started becoming more picky about my objects. Each object had to be more special, had to have a reason to be there. That is where the process becomes very self reflective. Objects have meaning or associations and you end up questioning them and yourself through them. Until something makes a bit of sense, if not with their meanings, then with their visuals.
Looking at the Rayograms of Man Ray i really started to become curious of his life through the objects he used like scissors, films,keys flies, comb, needle, iron
Despite their quality as objects, they really make me question their associations and that is where i started researching more on Man Ray’s life. I wanted to know to where and to what they were connected in his life.
Man Ray’s work not only seem experimental they also are very personal. The double thing with ”knowing” though is that once you know it you can never see it in its purest form and that is also quite important in very abstract, open end works like Rayograms.
Rayograms which is named after Man Ray started to come into existence only after he experimented with various mixed medias throughout his life. Thus it is important to know the stages Man Ray went through in his career to see the layers under his rayograms.
It all started at Boys’ High School, where he educated himself by frequently visiting the local art museums where he studied the works of old Masters.
Between 1913-1915 when Man Ray lived in a small artists colony in Grantwood, in an effort to keep expenses at minimum Man Ray shared the rent on a small shack with the American painter Samuel Halpert. It was from Halpert that Man Ray emulated the artists’s utilization of contoured form and brightened palette.
While living in New York, he became friends with Marcel Duchamp who was interested in showing movement in static paintings. Obviously influenced by Duchamp Man ray’s works began to depict movements of the figures. Later on again like Duchamp, Man Ray made ” ready-mades”.
Man Ray married poet Adon Lacroix in 1913 who reads him Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Lautramont, Mallarmé. His wife influenced him and prepared him for his travel to Paris after their divorce in 1919.
Man Ray followed his friend Marcel Duchamp and moved to Paris in 1921. Soon after he met Kiki de Montparnasse and fell in love. She was an artists model and an important character in Parisian bohemian circles.
“There is no progress in art, any more than there is progress in making love. There are simply different ways of doing it.”
Man Ray’s early Mixed Media background started influencing his photographical technique and soon he started experimenting in the Photograms with which he would become widely known.
Man Ray always desired to disassociate himself from his family background, although his parents tailoring business and the way his mother invented patchwork items from scraps of fabric left an enduring mark on his art. That is why the items which are related to clothing and sewing reappeared at different stages of his work. I mean not just items but he also adopted the technique of tailoring into making collages and paintings.
Man Rays Rayographs portrays unusual juxtapositions of identifiable objects varying in exposure time given to different objects within a single image and moving objects as they were exposed.
When I look at the Rayographs of Man Ray, I can see the influence of his mother, Kiki de Montparnasse, Marcel Duchamp, Adon Lacroix, Lee Miller all together. His development as an artist was closely related to people in his life.
If Man Ray was born in another time and met different people, his work would be much more different.[x]
Every person entering his life gave another layer to his work and that is where i feel close to Man Ray. If i reflect back on my own work, i also see how much inspiration i collect from the people i know starting from my own parents. I find the work much more stronger when it has close ties with those persons involved. When every object or every word chosen has many hidden layers under it to be discovered sometimes through the person who did it.