A photogram is a photographic print made by placing objects onto photographic paper and exposing it to light
Man Ray 1890-1976 Man Ray was an acclaimed portrait photographer and painter based in Paris in the 1920s and working in the Sureallist and Dadaist style of modern art.
Man Ray's accident - Paris 1925
A darkroom accident led to Man Ray's first Photogram. According to his account, he was making some prints of fashion photos he’d shot for a designer when one of the sheets of photo paper he’d put into the developer came up blank; he’d forgotten to expose it.
“As I waited in vain a couple of minutes for an image to appear, regretting the waste of paper, I mechanically placed a small glass funnel, the graduate and the thermometer in the tray on the wetted paper,” Ray writes. “I turned on the light; before my eyes an image began to form, not quite a simple silhouette of the objects as in a straight photograph, but distorted and refracted by the glass more or less in contact with the paper and standing out against a black background, the part directly exposed to the light.” credit: The Literate Lens blog 2013
Rayographs 1920s Paris
Lazlo Moholy Nagy
Working at the same time as Man Ray - Lazlo Moholy-Nagy was fascinated by light throughout his career,. He was an influential artist and teacher in the Bauhaus movement. The Photogram offered him the opportunity to experiment with the subtlety of light and shade. To create the photogram, he laid everyday objects on light-sensitive paper before exposing them to light. The brightness of the object's silhouette depended on the exposure time - a longer exposure meant a brighter image.
In this photogram a paintbrush lays over Moholy-Nagy's hands, perhaps slyly suggesting the photogram is a medium of art that rivals painting.