Man Ray (Emmanuel Radnitzky 1890-1976) was born in 1890 to Russian Jewish parents. He spent most of his young life in New York, and his family soon changed their name in reaction to the ethnic discrimination and anti-Semitism prevalent at that time.
Man Ray is cited as one of the founding members of the dadaist movement in art, a radical rejection of traditional art from 1916-1922. For everything that art stood for, and a protest against the barbarism of the War. Dada was a representation of the opposite. His first proto-Dada object, a show titled “Self-Portrait”, was exhibited in 1916.
Throughout his long career, Man Ray worked in many artistic mediums, from photography and painting to writing and film. His influential avant-garde short films include Le Retour à la Raison (2 mins, 1923); Emak-Bakia (16 mins, 1926); L’Étoile de Mer (15 mins, 1928); and Les Mystéres du Château du Dé (20 mins, 1929).
He produced his first significant photographs in 1918. However, he left America for France, stating that “Dada cannot live in New York. All New York is dada, and will not tolerate a rival.”
During the 1920’s he developed and refined techniques of solarization, cropping, and over development to create a surreal effect in his photographs. He also created a technique using photograms he called rayographs.
Rays true passion was painting, and yet he never made money off of his paintings. His photography was what paid the bills, working freelance for magazines such as Vogue, Bazaar and Vanity Fair.
“Of course, there will always be those who look only at technique, who ask ‘how’, while others of a more curious nature will ask ‘why’. Personally, I have always preferred inspiration to information.” – Man Ray