Photographer William Mortensen (1897-1965) was known throughout his life as someone who took pictures of Hollywood Stars. These were during the 1920s and depicted celluloid figures in a pictorialist romantic style. In his spare time, Mortensen would create images featuring semi-nude women engaged in various acts of witchcraft and debauchery. Mortensen’s practice of creating elaborately staged scenes and technical effects were ahead of their time. They set certain standards and became popular trends in fine art photography still valid today.
By using different elements in his pictures, Mortensen also turns these unique creations into storyboards filled with narrative. There’s movement and action in these stills which add to their beauty.
Despite the apparent influence, Mortensen would have great debates with Anselm Adams, the great naturalist who would call him a heretic and the anti-Christ. Funny be known now and probably back then too that the anti-Christ would always be much more interesting a subject to ponder in the realm of ideas.
The exhibit, curated by Stephen Romano at the Museum of Morbid Anatomy in Brooklyn, NY focuses on a series called “A Pictorial Compendium of Witchcraft.” The exhibit “Opus Hypnagogia : sacred spaces of the visionary and vernacular.” is a curated collection from The Museum of Everything, London.