Saturday, April 10, 2010


It's rare that I have a mystery dispelled so quickly but my recent creation of a Tumblr page has revealed the origins of the image in the previous post THE BEAUTY OF THE BEAST. As I discussed in the post, the photo of Ray "Crash" Corrigan had been retouched and manipulated to produce the drooling monstrosity that hunches over the limp half naked body of a fair woman. While the risque setup suggested some sort of relation to a burlesque promotion, it was an odd arrangement for Corrigan to be involved in. I could not recall where I had stumbled across the photo on the web but this evening I was shocked to bump into it again. Following the bread crumbs of attribution links, I finally came upon a Tumblr page where the photograph had credits and a title.

William Mortensen, L'Amour

William Mortensen, L'Amour

I confess that I have not heard of Mortensen before but his career and creative work is fascinating.

Monsters & Madonnas: Looking at William Mortensen An essay by Cary Loren

William Mortensen (1897 - 1965) was one of the most well known and respected photographers in America in the thirties. He worked primarily in Southern California as a Hollywood and studio portraitist and later taught his methods and ideas to younger generations. (See Larry Lytle's online biography of Mortensen.) Mortensen's obscurity today is mainly due to his championing of Pictorialism, a force within photography that promoted retouching, hand-worked negatives, chemical washes, and an artistic, painterly approach that soon faded with the advance of modernism.

William Mortensen, Mad Hatter

The Mad Hatter above is the man himself. While Mortensen's technique has an appeal for modern viewers who have been tempered by the pervasive manipulation of reality in all types of media, his contemporary critics were not as accepting.

Monsters & Madonnas: Looking at William Mortensen An essay by Cary Loren

Mortensen was considered an anachronism in photography, an outsider in a field that rejected the theatrical set-ups, retouching and strong imaginative subject matter. Ansel Adams, high priest of the straight print, described Mortensen as both "the devil" and "the anti-Christ." Historians seem to have sided with Adams, as there are few mentions of Mortensen in most of the major photo histories.

From what I can see of Mortensen's subject arrangements, it appears that he worked with live models and props (during the creation of L'amour). My brief perusal of his work seem to indicate he did not alter photos of this period by compositing separate photographic elements. My supposition is Ray posed for the photo but I will have to contact those more learned about Mortensen to lend their thoughts on the matter.

To learn more about William Mortensen read the essay quoted above and also check out another fine page on the artist at The Scream Online. The second article also features a illuminating description of Mortensen's process-well worth checking out.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Gorilla Man,

    Thanks for re-posting this article on Mortensen. Please check out this great she-gorilla poster by artist Cameron Jamie: