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  1. #21
    Ian Leake's Avatar
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    Fascinating! I can't wait to read to read his books. I can't say that I've noticed a difference between American breasts and European breasts - perhaps I haven't been looking sufficiently hard. But ugly elbows? I don't think it's possible for elbows to be ugly...

    Seriously though, while some his work that I've seen is not to my taste, there is much that I've found which is. It'll be interesting to see what he had to say on posing and lighting.

    Gandolfi - do you have any more details of the book you mentioned? And is it going to be in Danish?

  2. #22
    gandolfi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ian Leake View Post
    Fascinating! I can't wait to read to read his books. I can't say that I've noticed a difference between American breasts and European breasts - perhaps I haven't been looking sufficiently hard. But ugly elbows? I don't think it's possible for elbows to be ugly...

    Seriously though, while some his work that I've seen is not to my taste, there is much that I've found which is. It'll be interesting to see what he had to say on posing and lighting.

    Gandolfi - do you have any more details of the book you mentioned? And is it going to be in Danish?
    no news I'm afraid (I can ask around)..
    I think thay ment it to be in danish, but are they clever, they will make it in english (too)..

  3. #23
    Ian Leake's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gandolfi View Post
    no news I'm afraid (I can ask around)..
    I think thay ment it to be in danish, but are they clever, they will make it in english (too)..
    Yes, hopefully they will have a dual language text to internationalise the book. If you hear anything more then please do shout.

  4. #24
    gandolfi's Avatar
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    yes indeed.
    and the model is one you'd love to work with!!!

    the one to your right in the link (next to my girlfriend)

    http://www.emilschildt.com/PWL%20-%20friends3.htm

  5. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by gandolfi View Post
    yes indeed.
    and the model is one you'd love to work with!!!

    the one to your right in the link (next to my girlfriend)

    http://www.emilschildt.com/PWL%20-%20friends3.htm
    European breasts: possibily the more modern Scandinavian sub type.
    Regards
    Bill
    "There are a great many things I am in doubt about at the moment, and I should consider myself favoured if you would kindly enlighten me. Signed, Doubtful, off to Canada." (BJP 1914).

    Regards
    Bill

  6. #26
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    Every time I see a demonstration of Corel's Painter program, I think of Mortensen - it's the hand of the artist, or at least the program, exemplified.

    Even though I am much more in the Weston camp, I find Mortensen very interesting. As for writing style, the books were actually written by Mortensen's ghost writer, George Dunham, so don't look to the style for much information on Mortensen.

    Mortensen's wife has said that he chose his models based on who he wanted to sleep with. He arrived in Hollywood in 1921 escorting a friend's sister aboard a train. The young woman was Fay Wray of King Kong fame.

    He is well worth reading and his modeling books give you a great deal to think about - some of it dated, but like all rules, you should be aware of them before violating them.
    juan

  7. #27
    Michel Hardy-Vallée's Avatar
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    I found "The Model" and "Monsters and Madonnas" in university libraries here, and I must say it was quite an interesting read. Mortensen's approach is very oriented towards classical canons of aesthetics. He's a much more flowery writer than AA can be, and you get the sense that he is someone very concerned by art and craft. He is a photographer of humans, not of things.

    Some of his setups are absolutely tacky, quixotically painterly, but he had the genius of gesture, face expressions, and light composition. It's something that I find was never the strength of his putative enemies like AA or Weston.

    Mortensen needs to be studied more, especially with regards to today's contemporary art practices, because he is that perfect example of a total control photographer. He controls setting, light, models, props, tones, and when something is missing, he just adds it. Not that different from the work of control freaks like Jeff Wall or Andreas Gursky.

    I don't think the opposition between Mortensen the Pictorialist and Adams the Anti-Pictorialist is a good one; if anything separates these two "camps", it's their sensitivity and taste, not so much their approach to photography. While Adams would not go so far as to introduce drawn elements, he remains a "Super-Pictorialist" in the words of Berenice Abbott in her essay "It has to walk alone" because he put such an emphasis on the final print, as Mortensen did.
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  8. #28
    bowzart's Avatar
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    Mortensen: American Self Loathing

    Quote Originally Posted by Ole View Post
    The polarisation seems to have been a lot stronger in the USA than in Europe, though.
    In a nation founded by puritans, it seems hardly a mystery that successive styles would emerge and the proponents of each would claim the moral standard, casting its predecessor into the flames of hell. America seems to have been quite uncomfortable with the mythology that Hollywood brought us. It was incredibly seductive but there seems to have been a doubt in our collective mind that it was OK to dip into the darkness of Machiavelli, the Borgias, the warped visions of Poe. We went for it, big time, but we thought that probably we shouldn't go there. Seems to me we had it as a guilty pleasure. I wasn't around in the thirties, but it wasn't all that distant a view when I was growing up. Perhaps the Romantic vision offered a mythic foundation that was somewhat easier for us to accept.

    Some say that Adams was "the last nineteenth century artist"; it is easy to see why if you take a look at his work with reference to Alfred Bierstadt, et al. This can reveal a certain contradiction within the aesthetic and belies any claim that his work was objective or without a mythological foundation. His predecessors were painters who presented an idealized vision that spiritualized the landscape in the Romantic tradition of the 19th century. I doubt that there would be much argument against the proposition that his work did that also. Some references in other media: Listen to Beethoven's 6th symphony. Read Nathaniel Hawthorne's _Ethan Brand_ or _Rapaccini's Daughter_.

    The landscape of the 19th century was alive with spirit. So it was with Adams. Wasn't one of the hallmarks of pictorialism its references to painting? You won't find a telephone pole in an Adams Yosemite landscape. In painting, if you had the skills, it might be easier to exclude stuff like that. But, exclude he did. Almost 100 years after Carleton Watkins shot the pristine Yosemite, Saint Ansel was presenting it as if it were the same place, untouched by time.

    So, what's going on? One could say that we are witnessing a conflict of competing mythologies. Mortensen's work dealt with mythology, specifically that of early Hollywood, which America embraced so enthusiastically. Was it "newer" in any way than Adams'? I don't think so, although the technologies were new for both him and Adams. Mortensen looked back to Medieval and Renaissance history and character. The traditions in painting that inform his work are much older than those upon which Adams' perspectives were built; they preceded the fascination with the landscape that arose as social focus went from agriculture toward industrial development. And, of course, the handwork that Mortensen did in his productions reflect that as well.

    Witch hunting never died in America. The witches just keep changing clothes.

  9. #29
    David Brown's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ole View Post
    I'm sure he (Mortensen) would have been a lot better known without the smear campaing (sic) by Ansel Adams!
    Ole:

    I have to take a little issue with this. As someone else has mentioned in the thread, both of their archives are at the University of Arizona in the Center for Creative Photography. They just closed a show called "The Triumph of Group F/64", which compared and contrasted the two schools or movements. There was an almost equal number of prints from both sides, including "pictorialist" images by members of Group f/64. There was also a lot of documentary material, including articles by both Adams and Mortensen. From this exhibition, I would have to say that the smear campaigning came from both sides!
    David
    Taking pictures is easy. Making photographs is hard.

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  10. #30
    mmcclellan's Avatar
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    You can find dozens of his books listed on Amazon.com -- just search for "William Mortensen" under books and there are used copies all over the place, at decent prices, for those who want to read him. Just ordered two myself!
    Michael McClellan
    Documentary Photographer
    Ann Arbor, Michigan
    http://www.MichaelMcClellan.com

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