Outside Focus – Voices of the People: Man Ray Portraits opens at The National Portrait Gallery

This year I’ll be inviting contributors new to photography to review some photo shows to get a different perspective. Today’s post is by third-year journalism student Kerrie Braithwaite, who is new to photography and has written the following review of Man Ray – Portraits on show at The National Portrait Gallery. I also asked Kerrie to do some Vox Pops (Vox populi – interviews with members of the general public).

The National Portrait Gallery is currently exhibiting a comprehensive collection of Man Ray’s surreal photography until the 27 May.

Le Violon d'Ingres

Le Violon d’Ingres, 1924 by Man Ray
Museum Ludwig Cologne, Photography Collections (Collection Gruber)
© Man Ray Trust / ADAGP © Copy Photograph Rheinisches Bildarchiv Köln

Although mostly known as a painter, this collection shows the development of Man Ray’s photography in the early 19th century, in chronological order based on the places where he was living. The show is curated in a way that allows the audience to have an insight into the photographer’s life through looking at his technique, style and subjects.

Henry Crowder

Henry Crowder, 1928 by Man Ray
Collection du Centre Pompidou, Mnam/Cci, Paris, AM 1994-394 (463)
© Man Ray Trust / ADAGP, Paris © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN / image Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI

Man Ray Self-Portrait with Camera

Man Ray Self-Portrait with Camera, 1932 by Man Ray
The Jewish Museum, New York, Purchase: Photography Acquisitions Committee Fund, Horace W. Goldsmith Fund, and Judith and Jack Stern Gift, 2004-16. Photo by Richard Goodbody, Inc © 2008 Man Ray Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY / ADAGP, Paris 2012 © Photo The Jewish Museum

There are portraits of many creative people, including writers, poets, actors and artists, such as Mina Loy, Jane Heap, and Gertrude Stein, some of whom he met during his involvement with both the Dada and Surrealist movements.

Although my lack of photographical knowledge leaves me with many questions as to Man Ray’s technique and purpose when it comes to the style of his portraits, the exhibition gives the audience an insight into his development of solarisation techniques and photograms as well as other photographic processes of the time. Man Ray’s love of photographing women is evident along with his portraits of other creatives, all of whom he manages to portray in a way that suggests the essence of the character of the person.

Solarized portrait of Lee Miller

Solarised Portrait of Lee Miller, c.1929 by Man Ray The Penrose Collection © Man Ray Trust/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2012, courtesy The Penrose Collection. Image courtesy the Lee Miller Archives

Catherine Deneuve

Catherine Deneuve, 1968 by Man Ray
Private Lender
© Man Ray Trust ARS-ADAGP / DACS

Towards the end of the show, a room is dedicated to Man Ray’s work in Hollywood where he continued to work with his surrealist style of photography. Some of the portraits are small , wallet-sized photos from the 1930s as though from the pocket of the artist himself, others take up an entire free-standing wall. Much of Man Ray’s portraits in this show cannot be found online, which makes the exhibition that much more worth the visit and that much more interesting due to its authenticity.


Juliet,1947 by Man Ray
Collection Timothy Baum, New York
© Man Ray Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP/DACS

Carol: “I was quiet interested in the French poet Paul Eluard and I love the portraits of Jean Cocteau. Man Ray manages to capture what you imagine his character might have been. The show is arranged chronologically which is interesting because you can see the development of his work.

Roy: “My wife wanted to see the exhibition and I came along. I’m interested in photography so I’m looking at it with a technical eye. Some of the earlier photographs seem rather amateurish, although the solarized prints are, technically, a bit more intriguing. The photographs are very small and it’s interesting to see portraits of familiar names, However, I’m surprised he made a living out of it.

Bryher: “My friend recommended the exhibition and although I’m familiar with other Surrealists, I haven’t actually seen any of Man Ray’s work. I like the portraits of the other surrealist artists who he was friends with. The way the show is curated, at times, you’re kind of jostling to see some of the pictures.

Mark: “I know Man Ray’s work and I did a little research before I flew into London. I really like the portrait of Erik Satie. When I think about Satie’s work, this photo really captures his persona. It’s a good collection of portraits and it seems pretty definitive in the scope of the exhibition.”

Stephanie: “I’m seeing a lot of shows today and I do know of Man Ray. I like the photographs of Marcel Duchamp, it’s nice to see them in real life and there’s a lot here to see.

Post by Kerrie Braithwaite.


One response to “Outside Focus – Voices of the People: Man Ray Portraits opens at The National Portrait Gallery

  1. Pingback: REVIEW: Hotshoe blog, the Man Ray exhibition | Kerrie

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