It’s hard to believe, when looking at his work, that these are photographs and not etchings or photoshop manipulations. Mortsensen started his photographic career as a studio portraitist photographing Hollywood actors and film stills. However, he was openly dissatisfied with the “straight” procedures of the time, and instead championed a more symbolist approach to the medium under the rubric “pictorialism.” Here, Mortensen’s often bizarre and grotesque subject matter was explored through a number of special effects created by hand-altering the pictures with texture screens, abrasion-tone techniques, and other means, resulting in the incredibly romantic, painterly scenes that distinguished his work from the rest. It was for this outright rejection of “purist” ways - which celebrated the “straight”, unadorned, print and a more documentarian style - that brought him criticism from other photographers of the modern realist movement. Specifically Ansel Adams, who dubbed him “the devil” and “the ant-christ.” Ultimately, Mortensen’s arguments led him to be “ostracised from the most authoritative canons of photographic history,” hence, there are very few mentions of him in the dominant narratives of 20th-century photography, apparently undeserving of even a footnote.