Untitled (Self-Portrait as magician). Metal-Chrome print. 13 1/2 x 10 5/8 inches. 1981.007. Laguna Art Museum Collection. Gift of Dr. and Mrs. John Poyas.

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What's it all about?

William Mortensen was a maverick photographer. Despised by many of his contemporaries for his grotesque subject matter and extreme manipulation of his photographs, Ansel Adams went so far as to call him the “anti-Christ” of photography.

Known as “The Master” among his students, William Mortensen (1897-1965) brought his experience in Hollywood and his voracious appetite for all forms of art to Laguna Beach, where he established the popular Mortensen School of Photography. Here, Mortensen’s influence caught fire as he leveraged his name to brand his own products, sold highly demanded books, contributed to numerous publications, and attracted students to Laguna Beach by teaching “The Mortensen Method.” Photography & Seduction: William Mortensen’s Laguna Beach is one of the only museum exhibitions of his work, illustrating his ascent as one of the most famous photographers of his time.


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