During his career as an artist, Man Ray allowed few details of his early life or family background to be known to the public. He even refused to acknowledge that he ever had a name other than Man Ray.
Man Ray’s birth name was Emmanuel Radnitzky. He was born in South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on August 27, 1890. He was the eldest child of Russian Jewish immigrants Melach “Max” Radnitzky, a tailor, and Manya “Minnie” Radnitzky (née Lourie or Luria). He had a brother, Sam, and two sisters, Dorothy “Dora” and Essie (or Elsie), the youngest born in 1897 shortly after they settled in the Williamsburg neighbourhood of Brooklyn, New York. In early 1912, the Radnitzky family changed their surname to Ray. Man Ray’s brother chose the surname in reaction to the ethnic discrimination and antisemitism prevalent at the time. Emmanuel, who was called “Manny” as a nickname, changed his first name to Man and gradually began to use Man Ray as his name.