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The Command to Look: A Master Photographer’s Method for Controlling the Human Gaze: Mortensen, ... The Command to Look: A Master Photographer’s Method for Controlling the Human Gaze: Mortensen, ...

The Command to Look: A Master Photographer’s Method for Controlling the Human Gaze

Mortensen, William; Dunham, George

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ISBN 10: 1627310010 / ISBN 13: 9781627310017
Published by Feral House, 2014
New Condition: New Soft cover
From Argyl Houser, Bookseller (Altadena, CA, U.S.A.)

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Flawless brand new 1st Edition Thus/1st Printing paperback SIGNED by essayists Michael Moynihan and Larry Lytle as well as Feral House publisher Adam Parfrey on the title page without inscription at a recent reading and SIGNING event in Los Angeles. "William Mortensen was an indisputable master of pictorialist photography. He worked with Tod Browning and Cecil B. DeMille, wrote a dozen instructional manuals, and Vincent Price narrated a documentary about his remarkable career. His masterwork, The Command to Look, has been out of print for decades. Rare copies sell for hundreds of dollars. In this book Mortensen provides insights into psychological laws that impact the way people react to photographs and one another. Church of Satan founder Anton LaVey was so influenced by Mortensen that he co-dedicated The Satanic Bible to him, and employed his principles in what he called 'Lesser Magic.' Near the end of his days Mortensen was attacked by a purist clique of photographers. Ansel Adams, a primary member of this school explained, 'For us, Mortensen was the anti-Christ.' -- the publishers. Will be bubble-wrapped and shipped in a sturdy box to ensure safe delivery. Bookseller Inventory # ABH932

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Bibliographic Details

Title: The Command to Look: A Master Photographer’s...

Publisher: Feral House

Publication Date: 2014

Binding: Soft cover

Book Condition:New

Dust Jacket Condition: No Jacket

Signed: Signed by Author(s)

About this title


The Command to Look is considered one of Mortensen’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 Mortensen’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 Mortensen’s use of Jungian psychology and also discusses new advances in neural psychology that confirm Mortensen’s methods of controlling the viewer’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 LaVey’s theories about Satanic Magic.

About the Author:

William Mortensenwas 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 didn’t fit easily into that group, however. His imagery was highly manipulated and not particularly romantic 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 outré subject matter that had an unusual look 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 straight photographers.” 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 47 Workshop” 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 Mortensen’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, Dunham’s contribution to Mortensen’s literary success was kept a secret from all but a few in the photography world and wasn’t revealed until the 3rd printing of How to Pose the Model. Dunham was finally recognized as coauthor of all of Mortensen’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 & White Magazine, Laguna Life, The Laguna Beach Independent, and The Scream.

Michael Moynihan is the co-author, with Didrik Søderlind, 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.

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