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

Re: Mortensen

This is a fascinating historical snippet.   I have never understood how
someone like Ansel Adams could be so creative but at the same time so
dogmatic, apparently about virtually everything.  Perhaps it was just

Not all f64 members were prudish of course.

Also it is worth noting not all Laurens are female.

Don Sweet

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Richard Vallon Jr." <rvallon@cox.net>
To: <alt-photo-process-l@usask.ca>
Sent: Monday, November 10, 2008 12:02 PM
Subject: Re: Mortensen


Mortensen was greatly invested in the nude female figure- which has
long been a prime subject of fine art- but not so much with the
slightly more prudish members of the ƒ64 group.
Also - Mortensen used the nude as a drawing card for his ( mostly male
students ) in his photo classes. I have been told that over 20K
students went through his classes over the years he taught.
Mortensens own justification for all the female figure work was that
it was the underlying structure under all clothed peoples compostions.
Sort of why docs study the skeleton in anatomy...

Here I will also make a direct defense for his use of the female nude-
they simply in general have more artistic bodies than men-
A survey a few years ago found that even female photogs most often
specialize in the female form.

BTW- I saw the inscription on a 1935 Mortensen book on nudes that read
something like "to Frank from Lauren"- a gift from a very
understanding wife?
A gift from Frank's model and lover?
or perhaps a gift from a sister in a very progressive open artistic
yes when it comes to anything concerning the nude - even in the case
of fine art- there is still the obvious titillation factor. ( no pun
intended )

On Nov 9, 2008, at 10:56 AM, Christina Z. Anderson wrote:

> 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.
> Chris
> __________________
> Christina Z. Anderson
> http://christinaZanderson.com/
> __________________
> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Richard Vallon Jr." <rvallon@cox.net
> >
> To: <alt-photo-process-l@usask.ca>
> Sent: Sunday, November 09, 2008 8:07 AM
> Subject: RE: Mortensen
> This is directed to the gentlemen , Brian and Eric- that were
> conversing on Mortensen's
> opinionated do's and dont's....
> I just purchased his book on the problems  of posing- and yes- he is
> very opinionated-
> however his influence is classical art- painting , drawing and
> sculpture and I think quite a lot of what he
> presents is spot on...
> I think the lesson from him is to show the Dont's- because if the
> teacher never presents anything bad
> he himself has generated- well then this falls to the reviewing of the
> students work.
> Now Mortensen was over-opinionated - and this is fine for his work- I
> do agree with the general spirit that rules were meant to be broken-
> and following one master is simply blind obedience.
> and why not do all of his don'ts to present a campy swarmy view of the
> nude?
> I remember seeing Bob Guccione's mid 1970s images of close ups of
> female "naughty bits" shot though some sort of vaseline
> and cheesecloth. I found these neither erotic nor clear enough to be
> anatomically instructive for  a college boy.
> you can add those images to the Don't list...
> AnyWAY - the real reason I am posting is that Willard Van Dyke came to
> the New Orleans Museum of Art a few months before he died.
> This was back in the early 1980s to my remembrance.
> You may know he was the last surviving member of Group ƒ64.
> I knew he had had a long running feud with Mortensen, and asked if
> time had softened his opinion of Mortensens work.
> ( Mortensen died in 1965)
> Well - Mr. Van Dyke turned red and erupted into a minute long tirade
> against Mortensen and pictorialism.
> I think he used words such as abominations and schlock....
> Anyway- many of the members afterwards congratulated me on having such
> knowledge of the history of photography
> - and one scolded me for interrupting his nap by agitating the
> speaker...
> Anyway- several months later Mr. VanDyke was gone...had I loosened a
> clot
> with my inflammatory question?
> Sincerely, Richard Vallon Jr. from New Orleans

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