The exhibition will feature many previously unseen works along with some of Mortensen's most well known iconic occult themed photographs, which Huffington Post declared as "Some of the most beautifully terrifying images ever made".
The exhibition will open August 3 and continue through November 3, 2019.
The exhibition features an online and PDF catalog with text by renowned Swedish occult writer and mage Idlu Lili Regulus, whose sold out book ‘Hekate the Crossroads’ Dark Goddess’ has received high acclaim..
Steven Intermill, Museum Director of the Buckland Museum of Witchcraft and Magick says: "One of the goals for the Buckland Museum moving locations was to have room for a rotating exhibit space, so when Stephen Romano approached us about a collaborative show we were naturally intrigued - so much we may have even howled a the moon!"
"The Mortensen photos depict a supernatural world rarely seen, where witches not only exist in the shadow but radiate within the light. His genius techniques enhance reality, bringing to focus the liminal space that esoteric imagery needs for success."
Born in 1897 in Park City, Utah, William Mortensen was a self taught photographic artist who along with the actress Fay Wray made his way to Hollywood in 1921. There he worked with such notable directors as Cecil B Demille, Tod Browning, John Griffith Wray and Ferdinand P. Earle as still photographer, and costume and mask maker. He was given a whole floor at the Western Costume Company to work in and used the resources the perpetuate his own art. His fascination with occult subject matter began when he saw the film "Haxan: Witchcraft Through The Ages", a 1922 Swedish-Danish documentary-style silent horror film written and directed by Benjamin Christensen.
William Mortensen's was highly sought after as a photographer in Hollywood until 1929, when a scandal involving his relationship with Fay Wray was the subject of an article in Motion Picture Magazine, he was forced to leave Hollywood and relocate his practice to Laguna Beach, where he open the Mortensen School of photography, and took the opportunity to develop his techniques of manipulated photography, publish a dozen books on various subjects of photographic techniques and philosophies, and attracted several thousand students from all over the world.
Despite his successes, Mortensen was engaged in a public feud with Ansel Adams, who called him "The Anti-Christ", and as a result his acknowledgement as an artist was relegated to less than a footnote, and Mortensen sadly died frustrated and obscure in 1965. It is only in the past 15 years or so, since the advent of digital photography, that William Mortensen has been recognized as a seminal American artist, and in 2014 the late Adam Parfrey's Feral House published a book "William Mortensen: American Grotesque" which increased Mortensen's visibility by orders of magnitude, and William Mortensen now is recognized as a national treasure, the status he rightfully deserves. In 2018, William Mortensen's first solo exhibition outside of the USA was mounted in Tasmania at the Dark Mofo festival in Tasmania, attracting over 6,000 visitors over 10 days.
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. " - A.D. Coleman, excepted from "William Mortensen Reconsidered" published by Stephen Romano Gallery 2014
"If he were resurrected today, almost 50 years after dying a marginalized and maligned figure in his field, photographer William Mortensen would surely have no trouble finding work or creative kindred spirits. His influence and affinities to his work are evident across a range of art and popular culture. Techniques he pioneered for manipulating photographic images--a practice for which he was once disparaged--now have digital equivalents that are widely employed and accepted in photography. A few decades of hindsight reveals him as a visionary and a consummate artist ahead of his time. In addition to his prescient technical innovations, his photographs prefigured the imagery and visual mood that have become the stock in trade for horror films, horror comics, bondage porn, sorcery-themed fiction and all things goth." Tom Patterson excerpted from "Beauties and Priests Among Other Beasts" published by Stephen Romano Gallery 2014