Prayer, 1930 by Man Ray

Much of Man Ray's work was motivated by his desire to create a momentary shock in the viewer that would arrest rational thought processes and stimulate fresh ways of seeing. This piece, with its awkward juxtaposition of hands, feet, and buttocks, shocks the viewer in a more conventional sense as well. Man Ray admired the writings of the Marquis de Sade, and this image evokes that author's sexual predilections and strong opposition to clerical influence in secular matters.

Throughout his life, Man Ray, who started out as a painter and became famous for his Surrealist photographs of fashion, art, women and objects, affected a lazy, devil-may-care attitude. He often worked in bed. And like the rest of the Surrealists, he admired all the uncanny things that could happen when chance, randomness, dreams and the unconscious were given free rein. But Man Ray did not practice what Surrealism preached.