Lye was very interested in the method of camera-less photography developed by Man Ray, whose results were known as “Rayograms” or “photograms”.  Lye made a few images of this kind in the 1930s using household objects or moulded plasticine forms.  He returned to the method in New York around 1946 and made an extraordinary series of photograms which were portraits of people he knew and admired.  The subject was required to lay his or her head on a piece of photographic paper in the dark.  Lye would then switch a light on and off and the result would be a silhouette of the person’s head, to which he would add further details via a second or third exposure.

The subjects of his portraits included painters Joann Miró and Georgia O’Keeffe, poet A.W. Auden, jazz musician Baby Dodds, architect Le Corbusier, and a newly born baby.  Lye also made striking portraits of his wife Ann and a self-portrait.

Photo Gallery: Photography

Georgia O'Keeffe, 1947, photogram
Le Corbusier, 1947, photogram
Photogram, ca. 1932
Self Portrait (with Night Tree), 1947, photogram