PARIS 1931 

C: Man Ray Trust/ADAGP, Paris and DACS , 2015.

'Night sky with electrical appliance bring domestic and celestial into dialogue'  Science Museum quote. 

The Art of Science  highlight of this week was an invitation to meet with the wonderful and gifted Jean Franczyk  who is the Deputy Director of the Science Museum. After an inspiring conversation about future projects I visited the current exhibition 'Revelations: Experiments in Photography' curated by Greg Hobson.

Hobson explains that the driving force behind the show is the relationship between the work of contemporary art photographers and their use of early scientific photography to inspire and instruct them. 

Man Ray's photo, ,part of the Electricite' series, above, was my favourite and therefore appears first on this blog but the whole collection was superbly curated and a source of fantastic images for the future.  I will be speaking at the Hay on Wye Literary Festival in May about The Art of Science  and some of these images will make an appearance in my talk. 

The following paragraphs are from a Christie's website dating to when the print was sold having been found by chance in the attic of an old house in France in 1997 once owned by a man who worked for the  Compagnie Parisienne de Distribution d'Electricité (CPDE): 

"In partnering with industry in the thirties, Man Ray was at a creative peak, advancing the methods and effects of avant-garde photography to catch the eye of the sophisticated consumer. No art director, editor, fashion house, or advertiser of the period failed to take note of Man Ray. Published in countless magazines around the world, he was recruited away from Vogue to Harper's Bazaar by the legendary Alexey Brodovitch. Above all, Man Ray's photography embraced the art director's dictum to 'be alert for new visions and techniques.'2

In over a decade of work Man Ray had brought life to old processes. He developed a more radical approach to making photograms, naming his camera-less inventions Rayographs. His transformation of the Sabatier effect had by 1930 radically redefined the look of the portrait. In response to various assignments Man Ray made collages, reversal prints, optical distortions, screened prints, and the still little-known colour photographs. There was little that Man Ray did not explore with enthusiasm.

Man Ray's great commitment to his Rayographs was that they never stayed the same -- they evolved and changed. In 1922 when he bagan making Rayographs, they were photograms (camera-less images made by placing objects directly on the photographic paper and exposing them to light) enhanced by intentionally changing the compositon and lighting during the exposure to create abstract effects. By 1930 when he made the Electricité series, the Rayograph had further evolved to encompass camera-based images whereby a negative was projected onto paper with the aid of an enlarger. Despite the various photographic approaches involved in creating his Rayographs, there is a consistency in their visual effect -- the phantom silhouettes floating in impossible to define planes. Only Man Ray could make Rayographs as that was the name he gave to his own creations and he took great pleasure in the mystery and curiosity surrounding his methods.

One of his most innovative commercial endeavours was Electricité, a commission undertaken for la Compagnie Parisienne de Distribution d'Electricité (CPDE). His effort and attention in the commission was considerable although Man Ray conveyed the impression that it was effortless. In one recollection he claimed to have made everything in the darkroom in 'four or five hours'

With Electricité Man Ray begins to use negatives not as props but to make positive images for his Rayograph compositions. In mixing processes, he allows the conventional vision of camera and lens optics to compete with the abstract. The Rayograph was the perfect choice, the photogram and electricity being likeminded characters. Electricity itself is something invisible -- we only see those objects which use it. Likewise the elusive photogram leaves only a trace of objects."