The great stylists hired him to have a look different from the usual clichés.
The central figure of the interwar period, he quickly became friends with Pablo Picasso, André Breton, Paul Éluard, Ernest Hemingway, Jean Cocteau. In Paris, the first exhibition on Man Ray and fashion.
For the first time, an exhibition tells the relationship of the American photographer Man Ray with fashion. At the Musée du Luxembourg in Paris, until January 17, it will be possible to discover a little known aspect of this Dadaist and surrealist exponent, born in Philadelphia. A central figure of the interwar period, he quickly became friends with Pablo Picasso, André Breton, Paul Éluard, Ernest Hemingway, Jean Cocteau. Woody Allen also remembered him in the film “Midnight in Paris” having Tom Cordier interpret him. Man Ray and fashion
Returning to Man Ray and fashion, it must be said right away that great couturiers hired him to illustrate their creations in a different way from the usual commercial clichés. Among these Madeleine Vionnet, Coco Chanel, and especially Elsa Schiaparelli. The first to advise him to “jump” was the most successful: Paul Poiret. We are in 1922. He gave him access to his atelier but, therefore, did not want to pay him for the photos. Man Ray was very upset. Apparently, those first images were a bit obvious. Not even Man Ray was born learned. Poiret found it already a privilege to have let him into his kingdom.
The beginning of the story is fun. Emmanuel Radnitsky, known as Man Ray (1890-1976) arrived in Paris from New York in 1921. He was immediately introduced by Marcel Duchamp to the circle of Saint-Germain des Prés, among writers and poets such as Gertrude Stein and Sylvia Beach. He frequents the cafes of Montparnasse and fits into the cultural-worldly environment. He begins as a photo portraitist then, thanks to Francis Picabia’s wife, Gabrielle, he manages to sneak in from Poiret. The tailor wants different, original photos that highlight female sensuality. Until then, the lion’s share in the world of fashion publishing was the illustrator. The sketches were the author’s proof: a girl with a very long cigarette holder, in a sports car, or on a golf course. The photographs, in comparison, appeared banal. Man Ray and fashion
Man Ray, at first had to study, reflect. He understood that in order to be successful with photos, he had to insert a pictorial style, something that recalled the artistic avant-garde. Here then is that he experimented with different shots and other techniques: overlays, distortions, the negative-positive. The results arrived: he stood out for his talent, sensitivity, and images that harmonized with the Surrealist movement. An example: the photo of Tears of 1932. It was born as an advertisement for mascara.
Between the late 1920s and early 1930s, portraits and photo shoots were published in Vogue and Vanity Fair. Often her shots illustrated worldly columns because high society women such as Marie Laure de Noailles, the Egyptian Nimet Eloui Bey, or Peggy Guggenheim were, in turn, characters that many women were inspired by in terms of elegance. But the magazine that believed in him most was Harper’s Bazaar. This thanks to two prominent figures: the director Carmel Snow who took over the reins of the American magazine in 1934 and the brilliant creative director Alexey Brodovitch. Man Ray was more than attracted to women. First of all the model and stand-up comedian Kiki de Montparnasse, whom everyone remembers for Ingres’ violin. A shot that portrays her, naked from the back, with the fs of the violin added with black ink. The relationship lasted six years. The female universe she imagines is mysterious and carnal at the same time. On display is a shot taken in 1930 by Lee Miller, his muse, collaborator, and girlfriend. Lee later became a famous war photographer during World War II. Man Ray and fashion
Man Ray did not like to talk about his activity as a fashion and advertising photographer. Even if they paid him well. He was one of the few in the Surrealists’ circle to be able to live well-off, thanks to Couture. He had his clothes made in London, he had a property in the country. He will leave Paris in 1939. He returns there in the 1950s when everything has now changed. The years of old age he dedicated again to painting and drawing.
He has always considered himself an artist. As soon as he had the opportunity, he repeated that he had studied drawing and engraving in New York. Fashion was something more. Proof of this is that he printed very few copies, the indispensable for publication. At the time, magazines owned not only the prints but also the negatives. And it is precisely for this reason that the Parisian exhibition is a special occasion. Man Ray and fashion