The Fantasies of Mr Seabrook

Lee Miller-William Seabrook-Man Ray 1930
Lee Miller & William Seabrook-Man Ray 1930

One of the most disturbing articles in the provocative Surrealist magazine Documents is Michel Leiris essay The ‘Caput Mortuum’ or the Alchemist’s Wife, which details Leiris encounter with the American Lost Generation travel writer and occultist William Buehler Seabrook.

Leiris had favourably reviewed Seabrook’s book on Haiti, The Magic Island for Documents and he readily agreed to a meetingLeiris was very impressed with Seabrook, who narrated a story about a man who had come face to face with God. Shortly afterwards  Leiris received some startling photographs from Seabrook of a woman in a leather mask. Leiris meditations on the photographs form the body of the essay which raises disquieting questions regarding identity and desire.

The American photographer Man Ray also met Seabrook in Paris around the same period and Man Ray tells several anecdotes concerning Seabrook in his autobiography Self Portrait. Man Ray shot several photographs of tableaux arranged by Seabrook, as well as the photographs of Seabrook with the marvellous Lee Miller.

The Fantasies of Mr Seabrook-Man Ray ca 1930
The Fantasies of Mr Seabrook-Man Ray ca 1930
The Fantasies of Mr Seabrook-Man Ray ca 1930
The Fantasies of Mr Seabrook-Man Ray ca 1930
The Fantasies of Mr Seabrook-Man Ray ca 1930
The Fantasies of Mr Seabrook-Man Ray ca 1930
Documents-1930 attributed J.A Boiffard?
Documents-1930 attributed J.A Boiffard?
Lee Miller & William Seabrook-Man Ray 1930
Lee Miller & William Seabrook-Man Ray 1930