Photo 1 – Photograms – Due 10/11


1.Read the following article

Man Ray to Thomas Ruff

2. Comment on how Photograms changed Man Ray’s career.  How did his work compare to Fox Talbot’s or Christian Shad’s work?

3. Explain how his work caught on and the role that composition and choice of materials played.

4. Does Ray’s abuse of women or his evasiveness about his Jewish background cause you to look at his work any differently?

5. How has Ruff has updated photograms with digital technology.

6.  Read the summary about Moholy Nagy:


7. From these sites (and others on a google search), post a link to the photogram you find most aesthetically pleasing.

8. Comment and explain why you like that photogram and how you think it was made.



9 responses »

  1. Photograms really helped Man Roy’s artistic carrier. He was basically failing as a painter, but he found some success doing photograms. Roy’s photograms are different from Talbot’s, they are more complex and are abstract and nonsensical. Roy’s photograms started catching on when they gained popularity with some leaders of the Dadaist moment. Ray’s abuse of women and avoidance of his background makes me sad, but his work still feels the same. Even though I don’t like the artist as much after learning about him, his art is still the same. Ruff makes photograms digitally by creating 3D objects using computer software and then digitally making photograms of them. This is much more advanced than the old method. I like this photogram because its just really cool. The artist must have put water on the photo layer, probably with some kind of barrier in between. Its really cool.

  2. Man Ray’s career was immensely helped by photograms, he was a quickly failing painter and photograms proved to be his accidental success. Rays photograms are different than Fox Talbots; they are truly avant-garde. His work caught on and kind of helped put photography at the forefront of avant-garde and modern art and they became a cool new thing with artists and musicians. It makes me sad that Ray was a jerk towards women and he doesn’t really talk about his background; but it doesn’t really change my opinion of his art just that he wasn’t really a nice guy. Ruff’s Photograms are very, very different since they are made using a computer and software instead of analog film equipment, in short everything Ruff does is digital, much more advanced and I personally think, freeing.

    This is my favorite photogram. I really like how stark the contrast between the water and the dryness. It looks almost like someone took a picture of the universe and put it in black and white. Also if you look closely enough its very disorienting, like, where is the light coming from? The shadows are also very cool.

    • That’s an interesting choice – it give me an idea of your aesthetic taste possibly. Do you tend to like symmetry and geometry more? Ruff probably has more back and forth manipulation with the digital controls than Ray did in his darkroom effects. I would love to ask him how much effort and work he spends on each image.

  3. Before Ray discovered photograms, he was an artist. Photograms accidentally became an immediate success for Ray, completely changing his career (for the better). Photograms allowed Ray to be more creative and to think outside of the box. Although Talbot and Schad, like Ray, were just experimenting with photograms, Ray’s work demonstrated a good sense of imagination and composition. His work caught on instantly with modern artists (particularly Dadaists and Surrealists) and musicians, all bringing Ray sketches of ideas his work had given them. The fact that Ray abused women and gives little detail of his background does change the way I look at his art. Not necessarily in an all-negative way, but it gives his art a different perspective. Ruff uses digital photograms to “preserve Ray’s vision while moving the genre into the digital era.”

    This Rayograph is my favorite photogram. I like the object in the photo and the contrast. I also love how the light seems to be coming from several different places. I think it was made with paper (possibly film), that is spiraled around.

  4. Ray’s work was better composition-wise and probably was more popular because of the time period. Whose to say which photogram is better when the interpretation could have been completely different.
    His work was so influential at the time because it was a new look, it took ordinary objects and made them look out of the ordinary, providing a commentary on everyday life and giving an image to the feelings of the lost generation. It was very symbolic.
    After I read that it definitely took away from his work. And how he was so arrogant about being influential, that also took away.

    I like this because of the detail and the amount of contrast which is seen through all the strands of, whatever that is, hair? It’s really nicely balanced between shapes as well as light and dark tones.

    • I like this one too – maybe it’s some sort of fiber…but what I wonder is why is it black and not white or gray. Wouldn’t it be blocking the light? I’d love to see you replicate some effects like this! There are so many artists in history with bad reputations I’d love to find a book about the kind and generous ones.

  5. Initially, Man Ray wanted to be a painter, but after failing in that field he went into photography. By accident he made a photogram one day and then continued from there. His photograms gained him fame, and he soon became well known for his work. While Fox Talbot was the first one to make a photogram, they were not as complex or popular as Man Ray. His prints were also apparently superior to Christian Shad’s simpler photograms.

    His work became so popular because of the way he made random objects come together, and his talent in composition unlike Shad’s work. He made it much more modern, and he was good at thinking outside the box when it came to picking materials and the composition of the photogram.

    Ray’s abuse of women causes me to look at him much differently, and also his work. I instantly lost all respect for him when I read his comment about abusing women with pride. The two photos of women that he took, after reading about him more, I viewed much differently. At first I just thought they were beautiful pictures, and I liked the composition but then I looked at them and wondered what he was thinking when he took them, and then they didn’t seem as nice as they were before.

    Ruff has updated photograms with digital technology quite a bit using color and scaling printing on a larger scale than was possible in the 20’s. The blog post didn’t describe what or how other than that he used the program Cinema 4D.

    I found some photograms of coke bottles here:

    I liked them because you can see all the lines and shades that you normally see in a 3D object but it’s flattened, and condensed, and the colors are opposite like a negative. I think they look really unique and cool. It looks like they were simply made by placing the bottle on the light sensitive paper.

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