Love Fingers of Main Ray (sic), the line, the color, the form, the space, the air

Man Ray1959

Oscar Niemeyer Museum

Oscar Niemeyer Museum
Curitiba, Brazil

In Self Portrait, Man Ray tells us that, during the winter of 1921, while working in his darkroom, “one sheet of photo paper got into the developing tray – a sheet unexposed that had been mixed with those already exposed under the negatives – [...] regretting the waste of paper, I mechanically placed a small glass funnel, the graduate and the thermometer in the tray on the wetter paper. I turned on the light; before my eyes an image began to form, not quite a simple silhouette of the objects as in a straight photograph, but distorted and refracted by the glass more or less in contact with the paper and standing out against a black background, the part directly exposed to the light”. Man Ray immediately names this “new” procedure “rayograph” and, “setting aside the more serious work”, depletes his stock of “precious paper”, taking everything which was at hand – “my hotel-room key, a handkerchief, some pencils, a brush, a candle, a piece of twine” – to compose images which enjoy him “immensely”, and which promptly arouse success. The procedure is simple and allows for obtaining a single image, without a negative, in which the values of black and white are reversed. Incidentally, he confesses that, when he was a child, placed “fern leaves in a printing frame with proof paper, exposing it to sunlight, and obtaining a white negative of the leaves”. Man Ray then conceives the idea of making countertypes of his first essays and produces a luxury album edition with twelve images, named The Delicious Fields. The parallel with automatic writing and The Magnetic Fields (1919), by Breton-Soupault, is evident. These images are akin not to dreams, but to an unknown reality, visible and rendered almost tangible by means of photography. Frequently classified as “the poet who writes with light”, Man Ray is this man “with the head of a magic lantern”, according to André Breton, who makes photography to serve “other purposes than those for which it was created, and in special to pursue, on its own account and commensurate with its own resources, the exploration of this region which painting thought would be able to reserve for itself” (Le Surréalisme et la peinture).


  • Title: Love Fingers of Main Ray (sic), the line, the color, the form, the space, the air
  • Creator: Man Ray
  • Date: 1959
  • Location: France
  • Physical Dimensions: 17.5 x 12.8
  • Rights: © Man Ray 2015 Trust
  • Medium: Rayograph, vintage gelatin-silver print

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