Quote Originally Posted by Bill Mitchell View Post
Was Mortensen just as vitriolic against Adams and Weston?
No, he was not, at least not in his published writings.

Here's a sample of the type of comments he made on this matter.

" 'Definition' in photography is concerned with the clear indication of edges and contours.

" 'Detail,' on the other hand, is concerned wit ht eh rendition of small and characterisitic differentiaions of texture--the difference between the reflection fromsilk and from velvet, between the highlight on an egg and on porcelain, between the shadows of wood and of flesh.

"Good rendering of detail involves and includes good definition, but good definition does not necessarily include good detail.

"Although they are so closely related optically, definition and detail belong to quite different schools of art, and are expressive of altogether different attitudes of mind. The clear statement of gtood definition belongs to the classic meithod of thought and of artistic expression. it says, in effect, "Here one thing ends and here another begins". It is interested in grandess of formation. It subordinates the parts to the more significant whole.

"a prediliection for detail, on the other hand, belongs to the so-called "decadent" phase of art and expression. He who looks at detail must, of course, scrutinize more closely and not see so far. In decadent art, as Havelock Ellis puts it, the part is greater than the whole.

"These two approaches to subject matter are mutually incompatible. Large structure and small detail can not be simultaneously considered. One or the other must be chosen as the method of approach. Too much detail will detract from the definition of large forms. And large forms will likewise distrub the appreciation of fined detail.

"This difference of method runs throughout the history of artistic expression. As a typical instance of the working of these two impulses--one for the realization of the whole in terms of contour, and th eother for the realization of the parts in terms of fine detail--we may cite the Doric and the Corinthian capitals. Thje large form is the principal concern in the first case, and all details are subordinated to its realization. But with the Corinthian capital the mass and the main contour are less important than the delicate and charming detial of the acanthus leaves.

"There are, of course, no moral considerations implied in the use of such terms as "classic" and "decadent." Nor does it follow that one or the other is necessarily "better." In the history of art the pendulum swings, and sometimes one phase is emphasized and sometimes the other. Both are entirely legitimate and consistent means of expression, but they are at all points opposed to each other. It is, therefore, futile and foolish to try to combine the two.

Note: The classic exposition of these two opposed phases of art is found in the essay on Huysmans, i Havelock Ellis's The New Spirit.