Although his early work was often indistinguishable from other photographers at Vogue, he was already experimenting with enlarging his portraits. “This enlargement creates blurring effects and allows the grain of the photomechanical grid to appear clearly visible, which is typical of Man Ray’s photographs,” says co-curator Maud Marron-Wojewodzki. His desire for experimentation also led him to produce images such as Noire et Blanche (Black and White), which first appeared in a May 1926 edition of Vogue. The pale, elongated face of his then lover, Kiki de Montparnasse, is juxtaposed with an African ceremonial mask in an image that references Surrealist ideas of the unconscious and the photographic process itself.
As Ray honed his craft throughout the decade, the circles he moved in had an increasing stylistic impact on his work. Dada and Surrealism gave him the freedom “to invent a form of expression all his own which consisted mainly of distancing himself from the reality of the model he had to photograph,” says Örmen. “He cultivates a taste for fetishism in his images – photographs of feet are numerous, and accessories play a leading role,” adds Marron-Wojewodzki, who also notes his fascination with wax mannequins and an element of “disturbing Freudian strangeness” throughout his fashion photography.