Excerpts from "Dialogue With Photography"
by Paul Hill and Thomas Cooper, 1974

Q&A With Man Ray

"Black Dahlia Avenger" implies that Man Ray fled to Europe to escape suspicion in a series of murders.

"In 1947, just a few months after the murder of Elizabeth Short and while the investigation was at its most heated, Man Ray left Hollywood for Paris. He returned later and remained in Hollywood through 1950, when both he and Juliet [his wife] returned to Paris."

"Black Dahlia Avenger," P. 89

In fact, rather than keeping a low profile, according to the Los Angeles Times of March 23, 1947, Man Ray gave a public lecture titled "The Importance of Contemporary Art" at the Pasadena Public Library on March 26, a little more than two months after the murder.

Since he died in 1976 and is unable to speak for himself, here are Man Ray's comments on his time in Hollywood. Note that he says he left everything in Paris when he fled the Nazis. That, of course, would include the single print of "Minotaur," which Steve Hodel discovered by flipping through a book on Man Ray and which "Black Dahlia Avenger" insists is a key piece of evidence in George Hodel's purported killing of Elizabeth Short. Also note his comments on having a very small circle of friends and that he makes no mention of George Hodel.

Q. Why did you return to Paris in 1951?

A. Well, after all I had spent twenty years in Paris before the war. It had become impossible to stay with the Germans all around me, and it was fortunate that I did go back to America; otherwise, I'd have ended up in a prison camp. The Germans let me go, after looking at my passport very carefully to see that I wasn't involved with any of the political activities in France. I practically had to escape.

I had a wonderful time in California. I did a lot of photography and a lot of painting and I was no longer working for anybody but myself. That had been my ideal. I was able to do all the paintings that I had been planning for ten or twenty years before--paintings I had never been able to realize. Some of them were from photographs of abstract mathematical subjects, which I used because they were manmade, they were not from nature.

Q. Did you become disenchanted with America?

A. Oh, no, it had nothing to do with that. I thought Hollywood was a wonderful place. And when I stopped in New York on my way back to America in 1940, they had set up a big studio for me at Vogue or Harper's Bazaar. I was doing all their fashion work, and celebrities, theatrical and movie people. I said: Well, I've been through this terrible war, and need a little vacation now. I was really on my way to Hawaii and Tahiti, I was going to disappear. I had left the studio in Paris with everything in it, not knowing whether I'd ever see the things again. A lot of my paintings were hidden away in a cellar, but I found some of them seven years later when I came back to collect them. It's just that I feel freer here, that's all. There's a proverb about a prophet in his own country. I didn't want to be famous or anything, I just wanted to be comfortable and have enough to live on and do my work.

I lectured a lot in America and was well paid for that. I had pupils in California, the wives of movie producers who had nothing to do and wanted to learn photography or painting. I even had a waitress who would come in her spare time for lessons in painting. She became a good painter and later a professor of art in a university. I was very successful as a teacher, but I wouldn't teach formally. The Art Center in California gave me an exhibition and tried to get me to teach. I told them I was against education. I could teach only a few people, one at a time. I've always had one or two students in my studio in Paris learning photography.

Q. Where did you live in California?

A. I lived right on Vine Street in Hollywood. I had a beautiful studio there, in a courtyard with palm trees and hummingbirds and flowers. I forgot that I was in America at the time, just as I forget now that I am in France. I live within my own four walls, it's my life. I don't attach any importance to the outside world. I think that a few people is all one needs for companionship or acceptance. I can only deal with one or two people at a time....

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

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