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
Especially the negative film as an object seemed to be reappearing all the time as well as scissors and needles.
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.
Early works of Man ray includes expressive figure studies and Cezannesque landscapes made from observations.
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.
Over time Man Ray removed himself from direct observation of his subjects,reducing figures to flat patterned disarticulated forms and his imagery became increasingly abstracted and artifial.
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”.
His work called ”gift” shows influence from both Duchamp and his parents.