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Me and Mortensen: Photography with the Master

Text from the book jacket:

In 1956 Robert Balcomb studied with American Master Photographer William Mortensen in his Laguna Beach studio. This long-awaited book on Balcomb’s time with Mortensen is a richly illustrated, inside look at one of the world’s finest Pictorialist photographers of the last century. The author delves into the lessons that he learned from the Master, and describes how he took the teachings and made them his own over a successful fifty-four-year career as a fine portrait photographer.

In addition to the numerous photos and illustrations accompanying the text is a gallery of over 80 portraits, still lifes, and pictorials from Balcomb’s long career, and six Mortensen prints — some being published for the first time.

There is not a great amount of information written about William Mortensen, one of the true American masters of photography, and so this long-awaited book from his former student is a treasure trove from an insider’s point of view, a man who was considered by Mortensen himself as his protégé.

Mortensen’s ethic was the polar opposite of Ansel Adams’ — the pre-eminant photographer of the time — and that of the entire Group f/64, who believed in photorealism without manipulation of any kind. The result was that Adams, with the help from prominent photographers such as Beaumont Newhall, Willard Van Dyke, and Edward Weston, were successful in ostracizing Mortensen and having his name omitted from significant histories of photography. This book is an attempt to remedy that.

Balcomb’s studies and close association with Mortensen, along with his subsequent fifty-four-year career as a highly acclaimed portrait photographer, are chronicled in great detail in this important book.

Chapter topics include Balcomb’s time studying with WM in Laguna Beach, the WM Pigment Process, Paper Negatives, Prismatics, a discussion of Portraits vs. Pictorials, and “A Day with Jayne,” about how Balcomb came to shoot the finest portrait ever taken of Jayne Mansfield. The appendices include “The Mortensen Books,” “Materials and Formulas,” “Texture Screens, ” and detailed “Notes on the Photographs.”

The book will arrive around February 1, but I highly encourage you to sign our mailing list to have first crack at reserving an autographed, first edition. Once the publisher’s ordering page is up and running, you will receive a notice to reserve your book. You can view sample pages and sign the mailing list here:


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