Gallery of Fine Art Photography - Atlanta GA

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Abbott/Cunningham – Out Man Raying Man Ray

The Art of Photographing Photographers

While in Europe, Imogen tracked down the great American expatriate artist Man Ray and made a stunning portrait of this multi-disciplinary artist. Often in her long career, Imogen used darkroom magic to transform an ordinary photograph, into something much more.READ ENTIRE ARTICLE

Original Portrait of Man Ray

Original Portrait of Man Ray

Meg Partridge recounts her grandmother’s method: “Imogen did whatever it took to make a photograph go from good to great. She took a straightforward picture of Man Ray sitting at his desk and in the darkroom she made it into something fabulous by moving the image in the enlarger as many as eight times to create a layered, cinematic effect.”
“Imogen had gumption. She was never shy about photographing other photographers. You just have to bring your best game to photo sessions with great artists.”
A Man Ray Version of Man Ray

A Man Ray Version of Man Ray

Berenice Abbott, another Circle of Light photographer, had a very different relationship with Man Ray. Cunningham met Man Ray, later in life, when she was an established artist, but Abbott was not even working in the medium when she met Man Ray in 1923, through the expatriate community in Paris. Abbott was trying her hand at sculpture, when she heard through Marcel Duchamp, that Man Ray was looking for an untrained assistant. A previous assistant had been too aggressive in his questioning of Man Ray’s methods, and Man Ray was looking for a more malleable employee. Abbott fit the bill since she had never printed a photograph or seriously used a camera. Abbott was quickly smitten with photography and abandoned sculpture permanently.
Berenice Abbott, 1921, by Man Ray

Berenice Abbott, 1921, by Man Ray

Man Ray taught Abbott to print negatives and use a camera. Abbott was an avid learner and within three years or so, she had established her own studio. Jean Cocteau was her first official sitter. James Joyce, Eugene Atget, Edna St. Vincent Millay and Djuna Barnes are among her most notable subjects. Her portrait of Joyce is one of the most widely reproduced images of the great Irish novelist.
The practice of photographers switching roles and becoming the subject of an image is deeply rooted. Cunningham’s portrait of the mature Man Ray reminds us of his portrait of the young Berenice Abbott taken nearly 4 decades earlier.

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