Man RayMan Ray, the master of experimental and fashion photography was also apainter, a filmmaker, a poet, an essayist, a philosopher, and a leaderof American modernism. Known for documenting the cultural elite livingin France, Man Ray spent much of his time fighting the formalconstraints of the visual arts. Ray’s life and art were alwaysprovocative, engaging, and challenging.
Born Emanuel Rabinovitch in 1890, Man Ray spent most of his young lifein Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The eldest child of an immigrant Jewishtailor, he was a mediocre student who shunned college for the bohemianartistic life in nearby Manhattan. In New York he began to work as anartist, meeting many of the most important figures of the time. Helearned the rudiments of photography from the art dealer andphotographer, Alfred Stieglitz, and began to experiment on his own.
In 1914, Man Ray married the Belgian poet, Adon Lacroix, and soonafter met the experimental artist Marcel Duchamp. Duchamp was to beone of Man Ray’s greatest influences as well as a close friend andcollaborator. Together the two attempted to bring some of the verve ofthe European experimental art movements to America. The most energeticof these movements was “dada.” Dada was an attempt to create work soabsurd it confused the viewer’s sense of reality. The dadaists wouldtake everyday objects and present them as if they were finished worksof art. For Man Ray, dada’s experimentation was no match for the wildand chaotic streets of New York, and he wrote “Dada cannot live in NewYork. All New York is dada, and will not tolerate a rival.”
Having broken with his wife, Man Ray left New York for Paris in1921—marking a continuous stream of tempestuous and often doomed