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William-Mortensens-Off-fo-014

Someone forwarded me a link to an article about William Mortensen, a twentieth-century photographer of the Pictorialist school, to which the practitioners of the iphonic arts, particularly here a P1xels, are the heirs apparent. (See the article in the Atlantic Monthly from a couple years ago saying this very thing!) In fact, as I looked at his work, I got so inspired I booked a shoot with a model for next weekend.

Below is an excerpt from the article, which you can read here. Also a video of his works I found on YouTube. Inspirational!

In 1937, the photographer Edward Weston wrote Ansel Adams a letter noting that he had recently “got a beautiful negative of a fresh corpse.” Adams wrote back expressing his enthusiasm, saying, “It was swell to hear from you—and I look forward to the picture of the corpse. My only regret is that the identity of said corpse is not our Laguna Beach colleague.” The “colleague” Adams referred to was William Mortensen, one of the most popular and otherwise respected photographers of the 1930s, whose artistic techniques and grotesque, erotic subject matter saw him banished from “official” histories of the art form. For Adams, Mortensen was enemy number one; he was known to describe him as “the anti-Christ.

Mortensen has been described as one of the last great practitioners of pictorialism, a late 19th/early 20th century movement developed by Alfred Stieglitz and others that championed photography as a fine art. Pictorialists were inspired by other art forms, including paintings and Japanese woodcuts, and emphasized an appeal to emotions and imagination rather than strictly accurate representation of reality. They embraced labor-intensive techniques: coating the surfaces of images with pigments and emulsions, scraping it with razors or rubbing it with pumice stones, and other manipulations that created a diffuse glow and impressionist softness.