American Grotesque: William Mortensen, Photographer as ‘Antichrist’
10.21.2014
02:04 pm

Topics:
Art
Books

Tags:
photography
Feral House
Adam Parfrey
William Mortensen


 
This is a guest post from Feral House publisher Adam Parfrey regarding two fascinating new books related to photographer William Mortensen.

Now that smartphones have become the camera of choice, it seems strange that photographers once belonged to divergent schools that battled one another, and sometimes quite viciously at that. The style that integrated painterly techniques with film technology was called Pictorialism. The “modernists” who dismissed complex photo techniques called themselves Group f/64 before they enlarged their influence, ultimately becoming known as “Purists.” For the Purists, sharp focus was the only natural way to photograph an image, and nature itself was the preferred subject.

Purists like Ansel Adams and Edward Weston did brilliant work in their careers, but it seemed important to them to remove Pictorialism from textbooks, galleries and museums. Their bête noire was none other than William Mortensen, who had for decades published many instructional manuals and reproduced his work in major photo magazines of the time, most notably Camera Craft. Mortensen specialized in a style that emphasized a grotesque look, which tended to feature many nudes. Compared to the trees and mountainsides that Ansel Adams shot, Mortensen’s work was accused of being exploitative and distasteful.

Purist hate was so intense that Adams even referred to Mortensen as “the antichrist.”

I had first heard of Mortensen from Anton LaVey, who had a photograph called “Fear” hanging in his Black House kitchen. In this photo a distressed woman is enveloped by a black-cloaked demonic entity. Anton acknowledged that Mortensen’s book The Command to Look: A Master Photographer’s Method for Controlling the Human Gaze changed his life, teaching him the basics of what he called “Lesser Magic.” LaVey also co-dedicated The Satanic Bible to Mortensen.

When Photoshop techniques and manipulated digital photography took hold in recent decades, the Pictorialist style once again became quite prominent though by then the Purists had long ago successfully bounced Mortensen out of public recognition. This was the reason I found it important to publish both Mortensen’s The Command To Look, which also includes Michael Moynihan’s article on Mortensen’s influence on occult researcher Manly Palmer Hall and Anton LaVey. We have also published a Mortensen monograph called American Grotesque: The Life and Art of William Mortensen, that includes an illuminating biography by Larry Lytle, a great deal of heretofore unpublished images and Mortensen’s textual battles with Purists from photo magazines. We hope that this evidence of William Mortensen’s brilliance once again revives his reputation and cements his rightful place in the history of the Photographic Arts.

—Adam Parfrey.

Here are some examples of William Mortensen’s work from American Grotesque
 

“Fear” aka “Obsession”
 

“A Family Xmas, 1914” 1932
 

“The Strapado”
 

“Belphagor”
 
More Mortensen after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Amazing vinyl toys of Bill Murray, Mighty Boosh, IT Crowd, The Shining & Christopher Walken
10.21.2014
12:32 pm

Topics:
Amusing
Art
Movies
Television

Tags:
The Mighty Boosh
Bill Murray
Christopher Walken
The League of Gentlemen


Tubbs & Edward from The League of Gentlemen

UK-based advertising and design company A Large Evil Corporation has these amazing vinyl dolls they’re creating daily for their blog to get into the Halloween spirit. I’m completely drooling over the The League of Gentlemen and Mighty Boosh vinyl toys. I never thought in a million years I’d see Tubbs and Edward dolls! They’re just brilliant!

Keep checking out A Large Evil Corporation’s blog as they’re adding new ones all the time. I’m curious as who or what they’ll do next (and if one can purchase these masterpieces? It’s unclear.) Maybe a Jill Tyrell figure (played by Julia Davis) from the dark British comedy Nighty Night?


What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
 

Christopher Walken
 

The Hitcher from The Mighty Boosh
 

The Torrances from The Shining
 
More after the jump…
 

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Odd woman makes fellow train passengers very uncomfortable
10.21.2014
09:18 am

Topics:
Amusing

Tags:
wtf
U-bahn

11ubhnwmnnjy11
 
No, I have no idea what is going on here.

Is it some kind of underground street theater? Or, maybe performance art? A viral Internet prank? Or maybe, sadly, one of those strange people you try to avoid at all costs on public transport? You know the kind, the ones you never want to make eye contact with in case they sit beside you and start telling you ALL ABOUT IT.

Note: the woman carries a plastic baby—is she perhaps making some kind of (weird) protest over breast feeding in public? But then again, maybe that’s just how she rolls. I think you’ll agree, it’s difficult to say.
 

 
Via Live Leak

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Never Mind The Sex Pistols: Here’s Vivienne Westwood’s Bollocks
10.21.2014
09:10 am

Topics:
Books
Fashion
Punk

Tags:
Vivienne Westwood


 
You would think the old saying (often attributed to Mark Twain) of “Never let the truth stand in the way of a good story, unless you can’t think of anything better to say” would be redundant when it came to Dame Vivienne Westwood’s autobiography. Surely, there would be a surfeit of entertaining and amusing tales to tell, without recourse to plagiarism or possible legal action over libel? Well, possibly not, as the investigative magazine Private Eye has been noting over the past few weeks. It would appear that Dame Westwood’s autobiography (written together with Harry Potter actor Ian Kelly) has been accused of plagiarism, factual inaccuracies and may shortly be on the receiving end of some serious legal action.

As first reported in Private Eye’s Books & Bookmen section on October 3rd-16th, there are “already rumblings from the estate of Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren, which has taken exception to her account of the Westwood/McLaren business arrangements.”

But as the Eye points out this is negligible to a “potential libel action” for the authors and publishers Picador.

...the biggest nightmare for Picador, may be a whopper of a potential libel action from her former shop manager. [Westwood] says in the book that, since he is dead, “now we can be honest”—and proceeds to accuse him of stealing all her money from the shop’s takings for eight years, taking “every spare penny”. Alas! The man in question is still very much alive, working as a psychotherapist in west London.

In the same passage she names the manager’s “boyfriend”, a well-known businessman and tycoon in the 1970s, who was “keeping” him. This man in question is also still alive, married with three children, and has never come out as gay. Although his name is slightly misspelt he is clearly identifiable.

Private Eye contacted publishers Picador to ask whether the book had been checked for legal issues—the publishers did not return their calls.
 

 
Other claims made by the Dame Viv of Westwood are “not actionable” but are certainly rum:

“The mad old bat is even claiming she wrote lyrics with Johnny Rotten,” says one incredulous veteran of the punk scene. Of the Sex Pistols’ first single, “Anarchy in the UK” [Westwood] says: “The idea and the title were mine.”

Private Eye followed up this story in their 17th-30th October issue, pointing out a number of elementary typos/spelling mistakes and factual errors:

We read of artist “Derek Boucher” (presumably Derek Boshier) and guitarists “Jimmy Hendrix” and Pete “Townsend”. The latter may surprise Pete Townshend less than Westwood’s claim that her first husband, airline pilot Derek Westwood, “managed the Who” in the early 1960s.

This all may be explained by Westwood’s caveat to her biographer Kelly:

I think, in talking about the past, it’s important to think afresh. Nothing from the past is entirely true.

Okay. I guess this may explain the large number of factual errors contained within Westwood’s autobiography, for example her first meeting with Malcolm McLaren is stated as “1963” then three pages later when McLaren was nineteen, i.e. in 1965. Even the dates of the Sex Pistols first gig at St. Martin’s School of Art is out by a year, claiming it took place in 1976 rather November 1975.
 

 
And then there are the charges of plagiarism:

“‘Just look at what people like Jack Kerouac were wearing,’ explains Vivienne, ‘after they had left the marines and the army and went on the road. White T-shirt, jeans, leather jacket…’” And so, for several more sentences. But despite that “Vivienne explains”, Kelly has in fact lifted the whole paragraph verbatim from a foreword written by McLaren, not Westwood, to Paul Gorman’ book The Look (2001).

Gorman is not pleased. Although named in a few footnotes, he has so far identified 24 “textual lifts from my work without attribution, credit or acknowledgement”, and has already consulted m’learned friends. “We’re throwing the book at them,” he says, “claiming damages, an apology and rectification of credit etc.” He notes that the copyright in many photos credited to the “Vivienne Westwood Archive” actually belong to photographers or picture agencies who will presumably now want fees and proper attributions.

If Picador is also sued by the man they thought was dead, this car crash could soon become a multiple pile-up.

I am sure a few lawyers across London are rubbing their hands with anticipation. It may be an idea, therefore, to buy your copy before this edition becomes rather scarce!

While we wait for that, here’s Academy Award-winning director Mike Figgis’ documentary Vivienne Westwood on Liberty, which features footage from the 1994 Paris fashion Show and captures Westwood’s captures thoughts on beauty, femininity, show production, clothing… but not the importance of fact checking.
 

 
Via Private Eye

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment