|Photos by William Mortensen|
Several months ago I ran across this book at The Purple Heart thrift store and just had to buy it. Years ago I worked in photography and was intrigued by this old book. I have since learned there is renewed interest in the life and work of artist and photographer William Mortensen. Yes, the cover of this book was in bad condition but the pages were all intact. I paid only a dollar for it but on Amazon found used copies currently going for $59.99.
|My treasured one dollar book.|
William Mortensen, (1897-1965), after serving with the US Infantry from 1918 to 1919, studied illustration at the Art Students League in New York City. He is primarily known for his Hollywood portraits in the 1920s-1940s in the pictorialist style. He preferred the pictorialism style of manipulating photographs to produce romanticist painting-like effects. He received much criticism from straight photographers of the modern realist movement. One of his most vocal critics was the photographer Ansel Adams. They carried on a "prolonged written debate".
|One of his more angelic faces. He used old techniques|
of spot-printing and vignetting on this photographic portrait.
|Portrait of William Mortensen. I have to say|
I like his sense of humor.
His arguments defending romanticism photography led him to be "ostracized from most authoritative canons of photographic history." In an essay, Larry Lytle wrote "Due to his approach—both technically and philosophically in opposition to straight or purist adherents — he is amongst the most problematic figures in photography in the twentieth-century... historians and critics have described his images as "...anecdotal, highly sentimental, mildly erotic hand-colored prints...", "...bowdlerized versions of garage calendar pin-ups and sadomasochist entertainments...", "...contrived set-ups and sappy facial expressions...", and finally he was described by Ansel Adams as alternately the "Devil", and "the anti-Christ.""
The man was vilified. (my words) :-(
|One of his ghastly creatures ... I find it interesting|
that Fay Wray gave credit to her success and discovery
to Mortensen. He traveled with her as an escort to Hollywood. Fourteen year old Wray
was a friend of his sister's.
|A beautiful face ... I suspect this one may be one of his|
enhanced photographs. It could also be
|The Salvador Dali clock theme.|
|Mary Duncan (1895-1993) American actress. |
She died at the age of 97.
Photo made in 1920 by Mortensen.
|Love this one, too.|
|One of Mortensen's illustrations.|
That nose ... why is this man smiling?
I can think of two possible reasons.
(I don't know a symbol for a smirking smile)
(or downright FEAR!)
|This one is entitled, "Fear". I can see some airbrushing|
techniques in the folds of the veil -like material
in this one.
|Another Jean Harlow portrait|
Was this man ever ahead of the time! Look around us today in this digital age of photography.
Recent years have brought praise for Mortensen's development of manipulation techniques and a renewed interest in his work.
|Some of my old Marshall's Photo Oil Colors. I have hung|
on to them all these years.
Thank you all so much for spending a little time here with me.