Synopses & Reviews
The Command to Look is considered one of Mortensenand#8217;s most momentous and rare books. Until now, copies on the antiquarian book circuit sold for many hundreds of dollars. It is a crucial book for understanding both Mortensenand#8217;s philosophy and his use of psychology in the making of his pictures. To illustrate the text Mortensen includes an amazing gallery of his best-known and most challenging images with explanations, by him, of what makes those photographs so compelling.
The reprint of The Command to Look also contains two new major essays that assess the significance and impact of the original book. An introduction by Mortensen biographer Larry Lytle explores Mortensenand#8217;s use of Jungian psychology and also discusses new advances in neural psychology that confirm Mortensenand#8217;s methods of controlling the viewerand#8217;s eye. The second essay, by historian Michael Moynihan (author of Lords of Chaos), details a strange and unexpected reception of the book: how this small volume on photographic methods played a role in the creation of the modern Church of Satan and Anton LaVeyand#8217;s theories about Satanic Magic.
There's a reason why Anton Szandor LaVey, founder of the Church of Satan, called upon Mortensen's artistic aesthetic and psycho-optical theories when creating LaVeyan Satanism and iconography of the Church. But you don't have to be the Black Pope to appreciate or make use of Mortensen's trademark techniques for commanding the gaze. - The Alibi
Command to Look and#133; influential, especially in renegade realms. Feral House simultaneously published the exquisite compendium American Grotesqueand#133;. and#151; Shawn Macomber, Fangoria
Mortensen was a giant, and it is time to acknowledge his stature. Buy both of these new books. But be warned: if you do, you may well find yourself haunting used bookshops and the internet to round out your collection with everything he ever wrote. and#151; Amateur Photographer
William Mortensenand#8217;s irreverent and revolutionary book on photography and psychology is available again after a sixty-five-year banishment.
The Command to Look was one of William Mortensen's most influential and sought-after books, and has been out of print for fifty years. Reproduced here in full, this book includes an essay by Michael Moynihan on how its images influenced the occult "lesser magic" of the founder of the Church of Satan, Anton Szandor LaVey.
The book reproduces fifty-five images of Mortensen's best work and text by the wittiest and most biting writers on photography of their time.
About the Author
was an American artist and photographer, born in 1897 and who died in 1965. He was part of a group of photographers in the first part of the twentieth century called the Pictorialists, known for their romantic subject matter and alternative photographic processes. Mortensen didnand#8217;t fit easily into that group, however. His imagery was highly manipulated and not particularly romanticand#151;instead he created compositions exploring themes of the grotesque and the erotic.
From the late 1920s until the 1940s, Mortensen was one of the best-known and most successful photographers in the United States. He had begun his artistic life as a painter and etcher and carried that training over to his photographic work, which he began in the mid 1920s. He was known for his outrand#233; subject matter that had an unusual lookand#151;it is difficult to tell, at first glance, if his images are etchings, drawings, or photographs. This work made him well regarded by many but reviled by a group of photographers called the f.64 group, also known as and#147;straight photographers.and#8221; This group consisted, in part, of Ansel Adams, and Edward Weston.
Mortensen, together with his coauthor George Dunham, published 9 books and approximately 100 articles on his concepts and processes. His books and articles were extremely popular. For the most part these were published by Camera Craft, but he was also a regular contributor to various other major magazines of the time such as Popular Photography.
George Dunham was born in 1896 in Riverside County, California. He went on to Harvard University to pursue graduate work in English and Music. At Harvard, Dunham attended the influential and#147;47 Workshopand#8221; class taught by George Pierce Baker. Dunham returned to the seaside art colony then forming in Laguna Beach, California in 1923.
In the years that followed Dunham became an actor and director of the Community Players of Laguna Beach. Dunham was also an accomplished writer, who had provided articles on theater to the local newspaper.
In 1931 after leaving the Community Players, Dunham met and became friends with photographer and teacher William Mortensen. Mortensen had arrived in Laguna Beach in 1931 and opened the William Mortensen School of Photography. Dunham began posing for Mortensen in 1932, which yielded one of Mortensenand#8217;s most well known photographs, Human Relations 1932. Dunham also became the literary voice of Mortensen from 1933 through the late 1950s writing all of the books and articles attributed to that famous photographer.
Theirs was a literary collaboration, with Mortensen outlining the ideas and thrust of the book or article and Dunham providing the words and wit. However, Dunhamand#8217;s contribution to Mortensenand#8217;s literary success was kept a secret from all but a few in the photography world and wasnand#8217;t revealed until the 3rd printing of How to Pose the Model. Dunham was finally recognized as coauthor of all of Mortensenand#8217;s literary works.
Their collaboration, but not their friendship, ended in the late 1950s with the last of the articles. Dunham died of cancer in 1976.
Larry Lytle is a commercial and fine art photographer in Los Angeles, and lecturer in Art at California State University Channel Islands. His writings have appeared in William Mortensen: A Revival and Original Sources: Art and Archive at the Center for Creative Photography (both published by the CCP), Black and White Magazine, Laguna Life, The Laguna Beach Independent, and The Scream.
Michael Moynihan is the co-author, with Didrik Sand#248;derlind, of the award-winning music and crime book Lords of Chaos (Feral House, 2003) and has contributed essays to various anthologies (such as Apocalypse Culture II) and scholarly encyclopedias. As an editor and translator has collaborated on various books and journals dealing with the netherworlds where culture, religion, and art meet.
Table of Contents
The Story of The Command to Look: William Mortensen, Creative Pictorialism and the Psychology of Control by Larry Lytle
The Command to Look by William Mortensen and George Dunham
1. Personal Questions
2. Personal Historyand#151;Origin of the Formula
3. The Pictorial Imperative
4. Analysis of the IMPACT
5. Subject Interestand#151;Sex, Sentiment, and Wonder
6. You and the Picture
7. Putting the Formula to Work
8. Preface to the Pictures
Fifty-five Salon Prints with Comments
Infernal Impact: The Command to Look as a Formula for Satanic Success by Michael Moynihan