46 Classic Man Ray Quotes on Photography and Art

Looking for the best Man Ray quotes? You’ve come to the right place. Below we’ve listed the surrealist photographers 46 best quotes to inspire you and help take your creative photography to the next level.

If you haven’t done so already, we recommend reading our Man Ray master profile article to learn more about his innovative photography, rayograph technique, cameras and much more.

Man Ray Quotes

Everything is related to photography, because it all has to be photographed in the end.

I have finally freed myself from the sticky medium of paint, and am working directly with light itself.

It was my goal to visualize the ancient layer of human memory with means of photography.

One of the satisfactions of a genius is his will-power and obstinacy.

Reality is fabricated out of desire.

Man Ray Quotes on the Work

My works were designed to amuse, annoy, bewilder, mystify and inspire reflection.

Were it not for the fact that photography permits me to seize and to possess the human body and face in more than a temporary manner, I should quickly have tired of this medium.

I paint what cannot be photographed, that which comes from the imagination or from dreams, or from an unconscious drive.

I photograph the things that I do not wish to paint, the things which already have an existence.

There is no progress in art, any more than there is progress in making love.

Don’t put my name on it. These are simply documents I make.

A book was once published of twenty photographs by twenty photographers, of the same model. They were as different as twenty paintings of the same model. Which was proof, once and for all, of the flexibility of the camera and its validity as an instrument of expression. There are many paintings and buildings that are not works of art. It is the man behind whatever instrument who determines the work of art.

Man Ray Observatory Time, The Lovers
l’Heure de l’Observatoire les Amoureux (Observatory Time The Lovers) © Man Ray Trust

Photography Process and Techniques

A camera alone does not make a picture. To make a picture you need a camera, a photographer and above all a subject. It is the subject that determines the interest of the photograph.

I worked fast. As soon as they walked in the door the camera would start clicking. No one knew how I did it. When they asked me I gave them wrong information.

An effort impelled by desire must also have an automatic or subconscious energy to aid its realization.

I was a great retoucher. A retoucher is an esthetic surgeon.

Just as I work with paints, brushes, and canvas, I work with the light, pieces of glass and chemistry.

Of course, there will always be those who look only at technique, who ask ‘how’, while others of a more curious nature will ask ‘why’. Personally, I have always preferred inspiration to information.

Quotes on Creativity, Inspiration and Ideas

It has never been my object to record my dreams, just the determination to realize them.

I never knew what I was doing until I was done.

A certain amount of contempt for the material employed to express an idea is indespensable to the purist realization of the idea.

I would photograph an idea rather than an object, a dream rather than an idea.

The streets are full of admirable craftsmen, but so few practical dreamers.

I do not photograph nature. I photograph my fantasy.

Some of the most complete and satisfying works of art have been produced when their authors had no idea of creating a work of art, but were concerned with the expression of an idea.

Nature does not create works of art. It is we, and the faculty of interpretation peculiar to the human mind, that see art.

I believe in the relation between photography and music; And thats my inspiration.

I have been accused of being a joker. But the most successful art to me involves humor.

An original is a creation motivated by desire. Any reproduction of an originals motivated be necessity. It is marvellous that we are the only species that creates gratuitous forms. To create is divine, to reproduce is human.

Man Ray on Camera Equipment

I am not going to be dictated to by the size of the camera. I use everything from an 8 x 10 to a 35-mm. But I don’t use these modern cameras which break down all the time.

[What type of camera he prefers to work with] None! I have to modify them all. My cameras are all of my own design. I take lenses apart and put them together again and put them on cameras that were not meant for them.

You don’t ask a writer what typewriter he uses.

man ray quotes 1

Painting vs Photography

There are purists in all forms of expression. There are photographers who maintain that their medium has no relation to painting. There are painters who despise photography, although many in the last century have been inspired by it and used it. There are architects who refuse to hang a painting in their buildings maintaining that their own work is a complete expression.

[Do you prefer the brush over the lens for certain tasks? Or vice versa?] I am an economic person; I judge the amount of work involved with the amount of worth attained.

A photograph is to a painting what an automobile is to a horse. A rider on his horse is a beautiful thing, but I prefer a man in an airplane.

However rapidly I could paint, it was still drudgery after the instantaneous act of photography.

l paint what cannot be photographed, and l photograph what l do not wish to paint. lf it is a portrait that interests me, a face, or a nude, I will use my camera. It is quicker than making a drawing or a painting. But if it is something I cannot photograph, like a dream or a subconscious impulse I have to resort to drawing or painting.

To express what I feel I use the medium best suited to express that idea, which is also always the most economical one. l am not at all interested in being consistent as a painter, and object-maker or a photographer. I can use several different techniques, like the old masters who were engineers, musicians and poets at the same time.

I have never shared the contempt shown by painters for photography: there is no competition involved, painting and photography are two media engaged in different paths. There is no conflict between the two.

Is photography an art? There is no point in trying to find out if it is an art. Art is old-fashioned. We need something else.

I was very fortunate in starting my career as a painter. When first confronted with a camera, I was very much intimidated. So I decided to investigate. But I maintained the approach of a painter to such a degree that I have been accused of trying to make a photograph look like a painting. I did not have to try, it just turned out that way because of my background and my training.

Many years ago I had conceived the idea of making a painting look like a photograph! There was a valid reason for this. I wished to distract the attention from any manual dexterity, so that the basic idea stood out.

To me, a painter, if not the most useful, is the least harmful member of our society.

Critics, Experimentation and the Future

When I saw I was under attack from all sides, I knew I was on the right track.

All critics should be assassinated.

In the same spirit, when the automobile arrived, there were those that declared the horse to be the most perfect form of locomotion.

I like contradictions. We have never attained the infinite variety and contradictions that exist in nature. Tomorrow I shall contradict myself. That is the one way I have of asserting my liberty, the real liberty one does not find as a member of society.

A creator needs only one enthusiast to justify him.

The tricks of today are the truths of tomorrow!

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What’s your Favorite Man Ray Quote?

Have a favorite Man Ray quote from the list? Let us know in the comment section below.

Don’t forget to bookmark this page, or print it out, and refer to it next time you need some inspiration. Also, don’t forget to share it with others through the usual channels (social media, forums, websites, etc).

If you would like to view more Man Ray photos, then check out his profile at MoMA or visit the Man Ray Trust 

Looking for more words of wisdom from master photographers? Check out the quotes section of Photogpedia for more great photography quotes.

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Founder of Photogpedia.com. Photography enthusiast, occasional filmmaker, part-time writer and full-time dreamer. Rediscovered photography in 2012 and have been trying to level up my photography skills since (I'm getting there) #chasingthecreative

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