U of S | Mailing List Archive | alt-photo-process-l | Re: Mortensen

Re: Mortensen

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  • Subject: Re: Mortensen
  • From: Richard Knoppow <dickburk@ix.netcom.com>
  • Date: Sun, 09 Nov 2008 10:54:11 -0800
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  • Reply-to: Richard Knoppow <dickburk@ix.netcom.com>
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----- Original Message ----- From: "Christina Z. Anderson" <zphoto@montana.net>
To: <alt-photo-process-l@usask.ca>
Sent: Sunday, November 09, 2008 8:56 AM
Subject: Re: Mortensen

Oh what a wonderful story, Richard!!! When someone reacts so strongly to another, what do you think the fear about Mortensen was? I wonder if he was just so obnoxious, or if they thought schlocky nudes would take over the world or whatnot...

BTW, talking of female body parts, I was able to see Adam Fuss's Vulva series (I don't know if that is what he called them) that if I remember correctly were daguerreotypes?? Someone can help me out here??? Anyway they were at the Corcoran Art Gallery in D.C. in 2005. Talk about detail...very dark and very sharp. But I cannot seem to find them on the web and I wonder what kind of criticism he received. I know Robert Hirsch was there, viewing them at the same time....so he might remember tho he is not on the list.


Christina Z. Anderson
There is a fair amount of biographical material about Mortensen on the web which a Google search will find.
Personally, I find him a facinating mixture of charlatan and genuine artist. His work is in many ways unclassifiable, it is not really pictorialism. His books are also a curious mixture: some of the technical stuff is quite conventional and correct, some just plain off the wall. But, much of the writing was actually done by George Dunham, who was Mortensen's darkroom "assistant" and also a frequent model. Dunham evidently understood sensitometry and, I think, was responsible for the explanations of the relation between development and contrast. Mortensen, on the other hand, was the one to pushed stagnant (AKA stand) development and some other strange techniques. These would have frequently resulted in difficult to print negatives and I wonder if that was the real motivation for the Abrasion Tone process and some other manipulative techniques used in many Mortensen pictures.
Also, Mortensen was well known for producing good three color carbon prints but I have never seen one on display. One story is that Dunham stole many of them because he had actually made them. OTOH, three color carbon or carbro prints seem to be very rarely seen in exhibitions.

Richard Knoppow
Los Angeles, CA, USA

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