Man Ray Portraits at the National Portrait Gallery

Man Ray Portraits at the National Portrait Gallery

Although he did not rank photography as his main artistic outlet Man Ray became one of the twentieth century’s great visual innovators and so a visit to the Man Ray Portraits exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery was a must.

I was not at all disappointed and was amazed how such an extensive exhibition had been put together.  There must have been an enormous amount of work and generous collaboration to achieve this exhibition.

For me there were three distinct parts to this exhibition: firstly there were photographs commissioned for magazines such as Vanity Fair, Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, secondly photographs of a surreal nature and thirdly photographs of his social group.

I enjoyed immensely the first group as I could clearly see how the fashion magazines were reflecting the society of that very exciting age.  I found both the other elements interesting as I have seen many of the surreal images before and had heard about and studied many of the people who featured in his portraits but had never seen them.

I found it quite difficult to take in all the photographs in the exhibition in one viewing and wished that I could have gone back for a second viewing, but this was not possible as there were timed slots. However, I have greatly valued purchasing the catalogue of prints at the exhibition, as I have been able to review the photographs at my own leisure and, in fact, had a closer look at the photographs than the exhibition allowed.

I particularly liked the solarisation effect that he achieved with Lee Miller and, with very little success, had a go at this “Sabatier effect” myself.

My first attempt at solarisation

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And my second attempt:

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I was particularly fascinated by Lee Miller and have subsequently spent some time looking at her life and photographs.

With all the visits I have had to exhibitions recently I couldn’t help thinking that no matter how good you are as a photographer you have to have something a little (or lot) whacky about your character and have a great address book.

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