The Print… between books and followings: Mortensen or Adams.
William Mortensen (1897 – 1965) was one of the most well known and respected photographers in America in the thirties. Ansel Adams called him ‘the Antichrist’ and wanted him written out of history.
Ansel Easton Adams (February 20, 1902 – April 22, 1984)
The Print… Adams (outlasted ..)
Print Finishing.. Mortensen (came first)
Should you want to make prints, the Mortensen is overlooked; it shouldn’t be.
The contents, shown below, is why. Much more content.
Adams is about curves and chemistry… in search of a print, whereas Mortensen is about how to retouch, to introduce the hand, while also providing specifics about drying, flattening of the print.
Even though he was there before Adams, we all know Ansel Adams.
Mortensen’s method required the hand. It was all about the final print; what could be done by the individual photographer… using haptic tools in addition to the optics.
Not the Zone System. A tone system.
In "Venus and Vulcan" -- a series of 1934 Camera Craft magazine essays -- Mortensen defended Pictorialism against criticism from the f.64 school and other "straight shooters": Photography, like any other art, is a form of communication. The artist is not blowing bubbles for his own gratification, but is speaking a language, is telling somebody something. Three corollaries are derived from this proposition. a. As a language, art fails unless it is clear and unequivocal in saying what it means. b. Ideas may be communicated, not things. c. Art expresses itself, as all languages do, in terms of symbols [William Mortensen, "Venus and Vulcan 5 - A Manifesto and a Prophecy," Camera Craft 41, n. 6 (July 1934): 310-12. As quoted in A. D. Coleman, "Conspicuous by His Absence: Concerning the Mysterious Disappearance of William Mortensen" in Coleman, Depth of Field (Univ. of New Mexico Press, 1998).]
Mortensen could draw. Had a larger world to draw from than Ansel’s insulated Carmellows. Limited by his piano, limited by playing to predetermined steps; not the human voice, rather the machine one. Chartable. The Adams universe prevailed since it relied less on human spheres. It is something that can be done on the weekends, alone. All that is needed is money and weekends.
Ansel gave us Coffee Cans and Canned Landscapes. Mortensen… another voice from the past, even though it seems possible that his whisper remains stronger than Ansel and the Newhalls wanted
The digital age is the age of retouching, even more than the chemical age.
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