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Kim Knowles - From Studio to Street--The Urban Photography of Man Ray 34(1) HofPh February 2010

Kim Knowles - From Studio to Street--The Urban Photography of Man Ray 34(1) HofPh February 2010

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History of Photography Feb 2010, Urban Photography of Man Ray
History of Photography Feb 2010, Urban Photography of Man Ray

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Published by: aileverte on Aug 11, 2013
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This article was downloaded by: [Dartmouth College Library]On: 15 April 2013, At: 12:14Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: MortimerHouse, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK
History of Photography
Publication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/thph20
From Studio to Street: The Urban Photography of Man Ray
Kim KnowlesVersion of record first published: 12 Feb 2010.
To cite this article:
Kim Knowles (2010): From Studio to Street: The Urban Photography of Man Ray, History of Photography, 34:1, 29-42
To link to this article:
PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLEFull terms and conditions of use:http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditionsThis article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Any substantial or systematicreproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing, systematic supply, or distribution in any form toanyone is expressly forbidden.The publisher does not give any warranty express or implied or make any representation that the contentswill be complete or accurate or up to date. The accuracy of any instructions, formulae, and drug dosesshould be independently verified with primary sources. The publisher shall not be liable for any loss, actions,claims, proceedings, demand, or costs or damages whatsoever or howsoever caused arising directly orindirectly in connection with or arising out of the use of this material.
From Studio to Street: The UrbanPhotography of Man Ray 
Kim Knowles
Dada and Surrealist photographer Man Ray is rarely associated with street photo-graphy, a genre popular with artists and writers of the 1920s and 1930s. Yet his work demonstrates a closer connection to this area than has previously been acknowl-edged. From the early Dada constructions to the later photographic depictions of Paris and New York, the city played a crucial role in Man Ray’s artistic output. Thisessay explores Man Ray’s urban photography not as an uncharacteristic shift of concerns, as some critics have argued, but rather as an extension of the aestheticapproach taken in his more famous studio-based works. It explores the influence of Euge`ne Atget, whom Man Ray claimed to have ‘discovered’, and argues that thelatter draws on the older photographer’s compositional structures, pushing theminto more abstract, formalist territory.
Man Ray (1890–1976), Euge`ne Atget (1857–1927), urban photography,street photography, city, flaˆnerie, Paris
Man Ray is rarely associated with the field of urban photography, and so the title of this article may initially seem to be something of an anomaly. His status as one of themost important photographers of the twentieth century rests largely on his studio-based works and on the techniques of rayography and solarisation with which hisname became synonymous. Occupying a crucial position within the movements of Dada and Surrealism, his intricately composed photographs transform and manip-ulate reality in a controlled environment, often relying heavily on the creativepotential of artificial light.It is from this perspective that Man Ray’s explorations into the photographicmedium appear somewhat removed from the various representations of the city produced by a number of his contemporaries. He even overtly positioned himself inopposition to external landscape photography, saying: ‘I think that, instead of producing a banal representation of a place, I’d rather take my handkerchief out of my pocket, twist it to my liking, and photograph it as I wish’.
Nonetheless, the city played a crucial role in Man Ray’s life and career, and numerous references to itappear in photographs throughout the 1920s and 1930s. Unfortunately, these imagesare rarely presented in exhibitions or collected volumes of Man Ray’s work, and, assuch, are accorded very little importance within his oeuvre more generally.
As weshall see, most accounts consider the city photographs in terms of a fleeting phase,representing an uncharacteristic shift of concerns from studio to street. The presentarticle explorestheseimagesinrelationtoManRay’svision ofthecity,particularlyinterms of his attention to the underlying formal patterns and structures of his urbansurroundings. It aims to show how Man Ray’s aestheticisation of the city creates animportant link with his studio-based approach and reveals a more fluid interactionbetween the two spheres than has previously been acknowledged.
1 – ‘Je trouve que, plutoˆt que de donner unerepre
sentation banale d’un site, il estpre
rable de sortir mon mouchoir de mapoche, de le tortiller a`mon gre
, et de lephotographier comme il me convient’. JeanAdhemar and Julien Cain,
L’Exposition del’œuvre photographique a`la Bibliothe`que Nationale
, Paris: Bibliothe`que Nationale1962, 10.2 – The two major exceptions are Jean-Hubert Martin (ed.),
Man Ray, Photographs
,London: Thames and Hudson 2001, and therecently published John P. Jacob (ed.),
ManRay: Trees & Flowers – Insects & Animals
,Go¨ttingen: Steidl 2009. The latter is mostimpressive in its bringing together of some300 lesser-known photographs from theMan Ray Trust, some of which are publishedfor the first time. A great majority of theseimages show subjects in natural, exteriorsettings, and thus offer an importantcomplement to his more frequently reproduced studio works.
History of Photography, Volume 34, Number 1, February 2010ISSN 0308-7298
2010 Taylor & Francis
   D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   D  a  r   t  m  o  u   t   h   C  o   l   l  e  g  e   L   i   b  r  a  r  y   ]  a   t   1   2  :   1   4   1   5   A  p  r   i   l   2   0   1   3
Although Man Ray’s interest in urban representation may appear to be centredon his photographic depictions of Paris, it must not be overlooked that the city isreferred to in a number of his more abstract early works bearing the title
New York 
.The first, produced in 1917, is a glass tube filled with ball-bearings,
whilst thesecond, from 1920, features a carpenter’s C-clamp that holds together strips of wood of different lengths. These Dada-related compositions demonstrate a tenuousand complex relationship with the city, subverting the traditional descriptive func-tion of the titles and hiding the meaning of the work behind an opaque system of signification. The photographic records of the objects themselves (which, in ManRay’s oeuvre, frequently constitute the ‘work’, the originals often being either dis-mantled or lost) suggest a studio setting – a closed environment, which stands inopposition to a more realist model of external representation. Their semi-abstractstatus in relation to the city itself seems to contrast with Man Ray’s later urbandepictions, which see him leaving the studio and literally venturing out onto thestreet. Yet these New York-inspired works are important to considerations of ManRay’s urban photography, not only in their status as early manifestations of hisinterest in the city as a subject, but also in the way they seem to create a link betweenthe two, traditionally exclusive, domains of studio and street. As the present discus-sion will demonstrate, the New Yorkconstructions to a large extentlook ahead to theformal qualities of some of Man Ray’s subsequent forays into external photography.Another work from 1921,
Trans Atlantique
, originally entitled
New York 
, furtherdemonstrates this relationship (figure 1). Again, the photograph is not, as one wouldexpect from the original title, a recognisable representation of the city, but rather the
Figure 1. Man Ray,
Trans Atlantique
, silvergelatinephotograph,1921.CollectionCentrePompidou, Paris.
Man Ray Trust/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2009.
Image not available online; please seeprint version orwww.manraytrust.com
3 – This image is one of the many works by Man Ray that were used to illustrate theSurrealist journal
La Re
volution surre
,forever tying his photography to theaesthetic principles of the movement. Itappears on page 29 of the first issue (1December 1924).
Kim Knowles
   D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   D  a  r   t  m  o  u   t   h   C  o   l   l  e  g  e   L   i   b  r  a  r  y   ]  a   t   1   2  :   1   4   1   5   A  p  r   i   l   2   0   1   3

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