Originally published in 1937 and out of print for a long time, The Command to Look by William Mortensen and George Durham has now been reprinted in a small paperback edition. In this volume the book has been supplemented by two lengthy essays about Mortensen and his photographic art. During the seventy-eight years this art medium has changed and evolved drastically. Historically this work may have significance in photographic art history but today’s photographers are unlikely to find anything useful in it, although it may have place in libraries.
“…nothing like it had ever been tried in a mass-market photography book.”
The main body of this book contains fifty-five black-and-white prints having Mortensen’s title and short commentary on the facing page. The comments are in accordance with the author’s formula he developed a photographer should follow “to clarify what makes not only a good picture, but an effective one.” For today’s photographers such a formula is badly out of date. For each photo the author analyzes such elements as DOMINANT MASS, S-CURVE, SENTIMENTAL, SEX, MOVEMENT, HINDRANCE, etc. The two long essays are not easy to read – their languages is awkward, and their style is archaic.
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