Choose a language
Use Arthive in the language you prefer
Sign up
Create an account
Register to use Arthive functionality to the maximum

William
Mortensen

1897−1965
Subscribe0

Biography and information

  Edit

William Herbert Mortensen (born William Herbert Mortensen; 1897-1965) - American photographer, best known for photographs of Hollywood stars, taken in the 1920s and 40s in the pictorial style.

Mortensen was not a purist, manipulating bodies and objects on the fly, depicting landscapes and creatures that he had never seen in real life. He was a photo artist, that is, he literally created images, and did not capture them, for all this, some contemporaries called him the "Antichrist."

In one shot, a ferocious gorilla is drooling over a half-naked woman; in another, an emaciated man without signs of pain inserts his fingers deep into his own eye sockets. In the next, a nude female figure hovers on a broomstick over rooftops. These are examples of scenes that emerged in the mind of William Mortensen, a photographer and painter known for his barbaric surrealism in image creation.

William Mortensen was born into a Danish family in 1897 in Utah, USA. Since childhood, the future photographer was interested in art, was engaged in painting and graphics. After serving in the army, he studies in the Art Students League in New York, and spends all his free time at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. After two years of study, Mortensen is informed that he has no talent for painting.

After a trip to Greece in 1920, Mortensen returned to Salt Lake City and began teaching art at his alma mater, East Side High School the same year. In 1921, Mortensen accompanied his friend's sister, later famous actress Faye Rae, to Hollywood. King Vidor helps Mortensen find work in Hollywood - he is engaged in the design of the scenery and the makeup of the actors. At the same time, he joined the Western Costume Company, photographing movie stars in their costumes. Gradually his fame grew. For example, portraits of famous celebrities such as Jean Harlow and Peter Lorre were published in glamorous magazines and best-selling books.

Mortensen was not your typical portrait painter. Influenced by the growing horror genre, Mortensen created portraits that looked even more nightmarish than the scenes in reality. He had at his disposal rather primitive methods of photo manipulation, similar to collage, but he skillfully applied them. As a result, the work looked more like paintings than photographs. In addition to filming celebrities, Mortensen was obsessed with images of torture, death and unbridled sexuality.

These were the convulsions of realism. "He was willing to use any kind of photo manipulation to get the picture he intended."

Such techniques were critically acclaimed by Ansel Adams and the entire F / 64 Group dedicated to creating sharp, lifelike images. This did not stop Mortensen, he openly gained popularity, "using books and articles as a platform to spread his devilish ideas."

William Mortensen wrote a huge number of articles, several brochures, became the author and co-author of nine books on the art of photography, taught at a photography school at his own photography studio. Larry Lytle and Michael Moynihan have published a book about his life and art: American Grotesque.

Did you like the article? Share it with friends
  Share    Tweet