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I received an early (and lovely) birthday gift from a beloved sister:
American Grotesque is a lavish retrospective of grotesque, occult, and erotic images by the forgotten Hollywood photographer William Mortensen (1897–1965), an innovative pictorialist visionary whom Ansel Adams called the “Antichrist” and to whom Anton LaVey dedicated The Satanic Bible.
Mortensen’s countless technical innovations and inspired use of special effects prefigures the development of digital manipulation and Photoshop. Includes a gallery of more than one hundred striking photographs in duotone and color, many of them previously unseen, and accompanying essays by Mortensen and others on his life, work, techniques, and influence.
You can buy this amazing book on evil amazon.
1965?! Wait, what?! Maybe I’m MORTENSEN’S REINCARNATION!
Nah, doubtful. There’s an old maxim about erotic photography: if it’s out of focus, it’s art. If it’s in focus, it’s porn. And all the shit I shoot is tightly, tightly in focus.
Mortensen’s images are gloriously out of focus, blurred, distorted, like snapshots of dreams.
Painterly, surreal, sinister, sexy… It’s no wonder hardcore realists like Ansel Adams hated Mortensen’s guts. He depicted a strange inner world that unsurprisingly shook up a lot of people in the first half of the 20th century. Maybe artists like Adams took offense that Mortensen’s images resembled the fake ghost photographs so rampant in the spiritualist movement that seized the imagination of both America and Europe decades earlier. It’s possible. Realists are notoriously uptight. Mortensen, while perhaps obsessed, was anything other than uptight.
Explore and enjoy his work, his world. It’s worth the trip. But send me no letters of complaints regarding the nightmares, nor the nocturnal emissions.