William Mortensen Photograph

Discussion in 'Discussing a ****** Photograph' started by Bill Mitchell, Dec 19, 2006.

  1. Bill Mitchell

    Bill Mitchell Member

    Messages:
    527
    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2003
  2. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member Moderator

    Messages:
    8,003
    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2003
    Location:
    Milan
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    IMO it is neither better nor worse, but different. I love a lot of Mortensen's work. Some of it is dated and maybe a bit shallow, but this image is very nicely done. I think Mortensen's biggest problem is that he is viewed by many as being on the wrong side of the argument regarding photography as a picture making tool.
     
  3. Robert Brummitt

    Robert Brummitt Member

    Messages:
    1,043
    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2004
    Location:
    Portland, Or
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    I can't tell.

    The image is too small to see to do a comparison. I have no problem with the image, otherwise. I have seen some Mortensen images that looked more like a ink drawing but I believe that we are all allowed to pursue our work as we see fit. If we didn't then we would all be photographing and printing the same kind of work.
     
  4. Ray Heath

    Ray Heath Member

    Messages:
    1,020
    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2005
    Location:
    Eastern, Aus
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
  5. bjorke

    bjorke Member

    Messages:
    2,032
    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2003
    Location:
    SF & Surroun
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    What's not shown with the little thumbnail is (presumption on my part) the lengthy pretentious rant about how this is the CORRECT way to do photography. Mortneson was good at those, as were his f/64 nemeses. Shortsighted on both sides of the fence.
     
  6. Struan Gray

    Struan Gray Member

    Messages:
    914
    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2004
    Location:
    Lund, Sweden
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    It's a platitude. And it's trying to be something it's not. If the Franklin Mint did nudes, this is what they'd do.

    I actually like a lot of Mortensen's work, but as graphic design, not as photography. His women and nudes are just dated and sad.
     
  7. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

    Messages:
    4,913
    Joined:
    May 17, 2006
    Location:
    Northern Aqu
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
    Very true, but at least Mortensen had the redeeming quality of being an amusing writer -- a claim it would be hard to make for anyone I can think of on the other side.

    Cheers,

    R.
     
  8. Peter De Smidt

    Peter De Smidt Member

    Messages:
    1,064
    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2004
    Location:
    Fond du Lac,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Roger is right. Mortensen was a very amusing writer, or at least his assistant (Mr. Duhem I think) was. This is not one of Mortensen's better nudes. (It violates a number of his own strictures: foreshortening, bad wrist angle...)Nonetheless, I like his nudes signiciantly better than Weston's. Weston's are simply unappealing. If you have a chance to get Mortensen's The Model, you really owe it to yourself to do so. It should be re-printed, as should The Command to Look.
     
  9. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

    Messages:
    17,919
    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2002
    Location:
    Honolulu, Ha
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    Hard to judge a bromoil from a scan, since bromoil is very much about the print surface, but I kind of like it. It reminds me of one of those smoked ducks hanging in the window of a Chinese restaurant. Why shouldn't a nude be a little grotesque?
     
  10. Bill Mitchell

    Bill Mitchell Member

    Messages:
    527
    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2003
    If Weston had shot her, there wouldn't have been a drape hiding her pubic area, but honestly I think that's the detail what makes the picture interesting.
    Weston's headless nudes were made that way because it was an integral part of his composition. This emphasized the torso (much like the Venus De Milo) by eliminating the face which is the natural focal point of a picture. Mortensen's composition, OTOH, appears to have cut off the face in the best tradition of porn from that era, to avoid "embarrasing" the model.
    Actually, while I like the picture, it certainly reminds me more of a later image by Ruth Berhnard than of earlier ones by Weston.
     
  11. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

    Messages:
    9,315
    Joined:
    May 24, 2005
    Location:
    Washington DC
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    What I like about it is that the model has texture and contours. I like the bent wrist, which echoes the contortion of the whole form.
     
  12. Gerald Koch

    Gerald Koch Member

    Messages:
    1,670
    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2004
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    A headless nude is a ridiculous affectation. It ignores the fact that the De Milo actually had a head. Why should an accident of history become an art standard.

    Something else that is ignored is that greek/roman statues were white. They were actually painted to make them appear lifelike.
     
  13. Will S

    Will S Member

    Messages:
    717
    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2004
    Location:
    Madison, Wis
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    Come on guys. This is nice for what it is, but it is no where near the level of a Weston nude. I know that post-modern sensibilities tell us that everything has its own interpretation and that any interpretaion is valid, and that history has done Mortensen wrong (though I suspect his writings did a lot for his pocketbook while he was alive,) but come on now, this is not the same by any means.

    The primary force at work in this is sex and, especially, voyeurism. The texture of the bromoil, the strangely twisted pose, the wierd crop of the head, the little dainty fabric so strategically placed... This is all about sex. Sex and the idealized representation of the female form. Now I love sex and all, but I can't think of a singe Weston nude that is primarily about sex or voyeurism or that seeks to show the female form for anything other than what it really is. They are two completely different kinds of photographs. One honest, the other not. Apples and Cheetos. Now Cheetos are damn good and I eat way more of them than I should, but are Cheetos even really food, much less good food?

    Oh well, rant over...
     
  14. Sponsored Ad
  15. Peter De Smidt

    Peter De Smidt Member

    Messages:
    1,064
    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2004
    Location:
    Fond du Lac,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Hm. That's not my reaction. In my opinion Weston's nudes were more voyeuristic. However, I don't really like this example of Mortensen's. I don't like the missing head, the foreshortening of the legs, or the awkwardly twisted wrist.

    Here's a list (from the Model) of types of Nude Mortensen thought best avoided: Nujol nude (oil-covered), mal de mer nude, prudy-nudy, dislocated nude, pretzel nude, speckled nude, blubber nude, pimpled nude, hirsute nude, abraded nude, sun-burnt nude, gooseflesh nude, hippity-hop nude, seaside-sunset-silhouette nude

    "A sedate variant of this type [the hippity-hop nude] is the seaside-sunset-silhouette nude. The elements are fairly constant: one setting sun, one breaking wave, one yard of crepe de chine, one piece of seaweed, and one lightly tripping nude who is outlined against the sky and the shining sand. Sometimes she appears in a more meditative and mal de mer attitude, and sometimes the scene is enlivened by the presence of three lightly tripping nudes and three yards of crepe de chine." Model (1937) page 221.

    , crepe-de chine nude, portiere nude, Tiffany nude, Knick-Knack nude, the Emily Post nude, Ah Me Nude (also known as the 'Welt-schmertz nude')
     
  16. Will S

    Will S Member

    Messages:
    717
    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2004
    Location:
    Madison, Wis
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    Noun 1. mal de mer - motion sickness experienced while traveling on water


    Now I want to try and make a mal de mer nude! I'm lucky that my wife gets seasick easily, though I don't think she will agree to this for some reason....
     
  17. Peter De Smidt

    Peter De Smidt Member

    Messages:
    1,064
    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2004
    Location:
    Fond du Lac,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Actually, it'd be fun to do one each of the types that Mortensen didn't like. Ok., maybe not all of them.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 20, 2006
  18. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member Moderator

    Messages:
    8,003
    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2003
    Location:
    Milan
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    [​IMG]
    One of a large collection of headless nudes by Pearlstein.
     
  19. Jim Noel

    Jim Noel Member

    Messages:
    2,117
    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2005
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    I happen to own both am original Weston nude, and a Mortensen print.

    Neither is better than the other. This particular example is one of the poorer Mortesen's I have seen. As someone said, it violates several of his own rules.

    The difference between a Weston and a MOrtensen is Weston was basically a straight printer who produce beautiful creamy skin tones. I keep mine in view in an attempt to print to the tones.

    On the other hand, Mortensen usually did extensieve work on his images between exposing the film and producing the final print. I have seen a couple of his test prints prior to the work on paper negatives and metalchromes and they are rather plain. Lighting was commonly flat and he corrected this with his retouching work. He was more an artist with his pencil and engravers tools than with a camera.

    Still, I will collect as many of both photographers images as I can. They are equally beautiful and desirable, just different.
     
  20. bruce terry

    bruce terry Member

    Messages:
    190
    Joined:
    May 14, 2006
    Location:
    Cape Fear NC
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
    Right Will. It is about sex, any unclothed female simply is, no matter our intellectualization. Given that, Mortensen's naked ladies are good schtick-sex but for the most part lack heart and soul and respect and are only patently humorous. I'm no student of his stuff but what I see I yawn at.

    As the universe knows, Weston was a recorder of everything including dead itinerants and totally natural, completely naked girl friends. I personally find his riveting Mexican-era Heads of Nahui Olín and Manuel Hernández Galván absolutely beyond magnificent. And when I observe the boiling emotion in those two faces his unclothed females appear strangely unsensual, so dutifully respected there is no 'heat' at all - I mean he was so connected to these women yet there is no warmth, just perfect recordings of Form. I find the neutrality amazing!

    The difference behind the two talented men to me is not in their pictures of female nakedness but in their means to the end: one was a showman who too-used female nakedness, the other was an artist who too-respected naked females. Neither ever captured the IT other well-known and not-known photographers have.

    Bruce
     
  21. Bill Mitchell

    Bill Mitchell Member

    Messages:
    527
    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2003
    Bruce, I'm with you on the Nahui Olin image. In Weston's work it's second only to Pepper #30. And as a portrait I rate it right up there with Karsh's Churchill at the very top of the pile.
     
  22. jstraw

    jstraw Member

    Messages:
    2,703
    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2006
    Location:
    Topeka, Kans
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    To my mind, all the Mortensen images that I've seen are schtick-somethingorother. After all, he's a pictorialist. They give me the impression that he wanted to be an illustrator but he couldn't (I guess) draw. He made pictures using photography as a tool. I'm not sure he was a photographer...exactly. But I don't want to define photography...which would sort of make me as ridiculous as he tended to be. I mean...nothing puts me off more about him than the notion of "rules."
     
  23. Bill Hahn

    Bill Hahn Member

    Messages:
    351
    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2004
    Location:
    North centra
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I believe that Mortensen worked creating/painting movie sets; I had the impression from Fay Wray's memoirs that Mortensen could draw very well indeed.....
     
  24. Peter De Smidt

    Peter De Smidt Member

    Messages:
    1,064
    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2004
    Location:
    Fond du Lac,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
  25. jstraw

    jstraw Member

    Messages:
    2,703
    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2006
    Location:
    Topeka, Kans
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    That being so doesn't change the impression the images give me.
     
  26. Bill Hahn

    Bill Hahn Member

    Messages:
    351
    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2004
    Location:
    North centra
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I wasn't trying to argue you out of your impressions, just trying to point out that your guess about his drawing ability was not correct in fact.