Man Ray Solarisation Process | Contextual Research | Surfaces and Strategies |

Little thad I known, the work I had produced in my negative practice is very similar to the works of Man Rays solarization process…


“Man Ray’s “Solarizations” shamelessly broke what may have been the golden rule of darkroom photography—Do not turn on the light while in the darkroom. During the developing process, Man Ray would momentarily flicker his studio lights, forming that distinctive inverse of tones around in his subjects. The reclining model in Primat de la Matiere sur la pensee, 1932, for instance, is enveloped in that dream-like aura common to solarized photographs.” – Source


Man Ray. Primat de la matière sur la pensée, 1929.

As you can see the light tones add what I like to call a sort of metallic feel to the image. Parts where the image would be darker, are lighter. Leaving traces of its negative form but not fully. It holds it’s newly developed black and white form. Its almost as if the image is 50% negative 50% developed.

Some of his solarisation images lean more towards the negative side…


Man Ray, Radnitsky Emmanuel, Portrait de A.M Edvina, 1961

I’m not sure how natural this expression was or wether it was ordered, but I think the edit increases the subjects sad looking expression by turning visually similar to that of a stone statue. The eyes being lighter rather then darker is one of the first things I notice about this photograph. Whilst I do not know the full reason why, I believe placing the subject twice into the image was part of Man Rays experimental nature.

He contributed to the surreal part of photography in 1920’s…

“Man Ray conducted a multitude of chemical and optical experiments in his darkroom, exploiting the elasticity of light and its unrealized affects on light-sensitive paper. “I deliberately dodged all the rules,” he once described his method. “I mixed the most insane products together, I used film way past its use – by date, I committed heinous crimes against chemistry and photography, and you can’t see any of it”.” – Source

Man Ray was no stranger to being creative and imaginative as he also was a painter…


 “I paint what cannot be photographed, that which comes from the imagination or from dreams, or from an unconscious drive. I photograph the things I do not wish to paint, the things that already have an existence.” – Man Ray

I proceeded to look further into Man Rays photographic imagery and to see if there was any work I liked and could relate to. in some way…


Marquise Casati 1922

This negative piece is an example of what the effect can do to the eyes by making them stand out. One thing I don’t understand is how the eyes turned out the colour they did. For the iris’s to be white and the pupils to be black in a negative format makes me think the subject would had to have been wearing contacts that reverse the pupils colour to white and make the iris a darker colour. But in 1922 contact lens weren’t even around. So had Man Ray altered this in the darkroom? The blurriness and shudder by the eyes and eyebrows suggests maybe so…

Noire et Blanche (Black and White) 1962 – Noire et Blanche – Black and White (reversed negative) 1962

Being a fan of reversing images and symmetry, I liked these pieces of work. Individually, I think it is very nice how her face looks sleepy and rested same as the mask. It’s a very calming image. I like how the girl in the negative image looks almost like a different person and I like how her facial features are highlighted. Her hair softly mixes into her shadow upon the table. You can tell here Man Ray carefully selected where the shadows would be placed. Together, the images work very well, the contrast between them is smooth.


Reflexions 1929

This image was interesting as it is bubbles over a picture of a woman. The further away you view the image the clearer it becomes that it is a woman but the closer you get the more it just breaks down into bubbles. This is an interesting way to display an image.


Le Baiser (The Kiss) 1930

Another negative image, it is very light in the middle which leads me to believe they shot this in a dark setting. The top lips being lighter than the bottom ones is interesting, different colour lipstick perhaps? Also end of the persons nose to the left is light…


Tanya Ramm 1930

Here I find it interesting how he solerized everything but the subjects face. Being done in the darkroom this would had meant finding a way to carefully cover the face.


Meret Oppenheim, solarized portrait 1933

A similar cut out look in this image, I like how the hair fades from black to white…


Space writing 1937

Whilst not a new technique I could use, I like how the despite all the swirls and squiggles,   the holder of the torch managed to make a head with two eyes. I think it looks more interesting the further away you are from the photo. Similar to the bubbles.


Man Ray self portrait

I will be performing a half and half portrait with the edits I create, but this is an interesting idea to shave half the face. I could make physical changes with contact lens.


Juliet 1945

This right here sparked and idea, I recently met someone who draws so I would like to try this out, a half photo half drawing. I feel this could be an interesting result.


Man Ray – Observatory Time: The Lovers, 1936

Lastly, I came across an image which has meaning to its edit, which was put very well by Angie Kordic – “One of his most famous works is this black and white photo, which features his painting Observatory Time and a nude female on the sofa. It appears as though this woman is dreaming about the picture, and the lips that belong to Man Ray’s departed lover, Lee Miller. The image is a perfect example of surrealism in photography, as it conveys typical darkroom manipulation, in this case mainly in form of montage, as well as the idea of depicting a dreamy environment.” – Source

This is in a way what I am trying to do, express feelings, emotions, thoughts or even memories through photography and the edits I can come up with. Looking at examples of many rays work, ideas have sparked further in the different directions I can move two whilst experimenting, such as the gradient of the solarisation or the use of facial features. Man Ray is a useful character which I can come back to refer to.



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