William Mortensen’s Pictorial Compendium of Witchcraft and Demonology”.


William Mortensen (1897 – 1965) – “A Pictorial Compendium of Witchcraft and Demonology” The complete 1924 series.

William Mortensen Reconsidered by A. D. Coleman for LEXICON MAG

The inclusion of William Mortensen in our current understanding of the history of photography marks an end to the long-term injustice done to the man and germinal work.

Anathematized, ostracized, and eventually purged from the dominant narratives of 20th-century photography due to the biases of a small but influential cluster of historians, curators, and photographers, Mortensen plunged into an obscurity so deep that by 1980 most considered him unworthy of even a footnote. Yet the approach to the medium that he advocated, under the rubric of “pictorialism,” included practices central to photography of the past four decades: events staged for the camera, image text combinations, photomontage, “alternative processes,” and more.


Morensen not only exemplified those tendencies in his own widely exhibited and published works but argued vigorously for them in cogent, controversial articles that appeared in the photo magazines of his day, therein contending articulately and persuasively with such vehement antagonists as Ansel Adams and Nancy Newhall. Furthermore, he invented several unusual darkroom processes, devised and marketed some printmaking tools, ran a school for photographers in Laguna Beach, CA and authored a series of highly regarded tutorial texts that guided several generations of practitioners.


So, inevitably, the cycle of appreciation and disregard that affects art and artists in all media returned him to our attention. Regrettably, however, the neglect of Mortensen and his contributions in the last years of his life and for several decades thereafter resulted in the apparently haphazard dispersal of his archive: master prints, work prints, negatives, manuscripts, correspondence, notes… scattered and, for the most part, presumed lost. So we must cherish those salvaged bits and pieces that survive. If the critical literature on this notable figure seems thin, we can attribute that in good part to the scarcity of primary source materials. The recovery of any substantial slice, such as these works from the estate of Hereward Carrington, brings us a step closer to grasping the full scope of his work as a picture-maker and the relation of his images to his ideas.


read full article and alot more @ : LEXICON MAGazine

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William Mortensen (1897 – 1965) – “A Pictorial Compendium of Witchcraft and Demonology” The complete 1924 series.

Barry William Hale

One Comment

  1. I think he was mostly into breasts. The witch thing just helped him get his stuff by the censors.

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