Most books I read are nonfiction, and the only ones I read start to finish in large chunks are biographies of people I admire. Johnny Cash, Michael Caine, Ice-T, Daniel Lanois are recent reads. I like knowing the struggles and choices these people dealt with that led to their creations. When money is a problem or creativity ebbs, it is useful to remember that even Johnny Cash was mauled by an emu.
I recently found a book on Man Ray, and to a greater extent the other artists in community with Man Ray throughout the early 20th century. I think Man Ray is the most obvious influence to anyone looking at my black and white images. A nod towards dreams, expressed through tasteful use of special effects, immaculately produced. The film in this blog is a nice sampler of his unique visual techniques.
The book, Man Ray’s Montparnasse by Herbert Lottman, is a pretty straight reportage of the titualar artist’s life and affiliations. It informs as to the details of the Dada and Surrealist movements, but is a bit short on dialogue between the individual movers and shakers. One would hope there would be some more rough edges to a tale about artists emerged in the subconcious.
That aside, it doesn’t take much to keep me vested in something that is both art history and political history of the early 20th century. The Modernist movement era that the Dadaists and Surrealists belonged to was the era that artists stopped being concerned with making religious works and obtaining patronage by the wealthy and were more concerned about exploring the possibilities of humanity and new technology. It’s like a baby taking its first steps.
Man Ray himself is universally recognized as a groundbreaking photographer, especially in portraiture and fashion photos, but it’s comforting to me to realize he was hired as sort of a straight portrait maker. And it’s fun to read he was shy upon shooting one of his first nude models. He had problems with love and money and getting his work recognized. These less glitzy moments are strangely what makes Man Ray even more of a hero to me than he was before.