See images of some of Mortensen's best works along with visual representations from Ritual America, an exploration of American Freemasonry and fraternal orders.

Feral House has revived interest in forgotten photographic great, William Mortensen, whom Ansel Adams referred to as "The Anti-Christ," with the recently released Feral House book, American Grotesque: The Life and Art of William Mortensen as well as Command to Look: A Master Photographer’s Method for Controlling the Human Gaze.

The Guardian describes Mortensen's unique work:

His work was more in tune with the popular taste, unashamedly exploring primal images of sex and violence that took their cue from the Universal monster movies that reigned supreme in the late 1920s and 30s, and the dark, nightmarish German expressionist style that inspired them. L’Amour, one of Mortensen’s most iconic images, features a semi-naked woman lying on the ground, possibly dead, as a monstrous ape leers over her with a club, clearly a reference to King Kong, which had been released two years earlier in 1933.

He also produced explicit images of torture and death, long before the public was exposed to that kind of material daily through war photography and televised images of conflict. The Glory of War, from 1927, depicted a young woman lying among rubble and detritus, dirtied and bloodied, seemingly felled by a wooden beam, clutching a crucifix to her breast. Religious persecution, especially crucifixion, was a repeated theme, usually featuring naked women, chained, shackled and tormented by hooded figures. Historical figures, such as Machiavelli and Paganini, were also favourites, often personified by Hollywood stars; in one such image, Peter Lorre played Napoleon.

Mortensen’s methods often made it hard to distinguish whether the results were photographs or not. He used traditional printmaking techniques, such as bromoiling, and developed many of his own. He would create composite images, scratch, scrape and draw on his prints, then apply a texture that made them look like etchings, thereby disguising his manipulations. Consequently, every print was unique. Ultimately, Mortensen’s aim was to create something that, for all intents and purposes, appeared to be a photograph, yet portrayed scenes so fantastic they caused wonder and astonishment in the viewer.

Signed prints will be available


Adam Parfrey will also be speaking about his investigation into American Freemasonry and fraternal orders as detailed in his book Ritual America

Just five or six decades ago as many as a third of all American males belonged to a fraternal order.

The substance of so-called secret rituals could easily be purchased in cheap paperback books. The true secret of these fraternal orders may be that all the classified information was hidden in plain sight.

Secret societies had extraordinary influence on practically everything in our culture, from business networking, entertainment, friendships, life insurance, and the structure of the government to the nuclear family itself.

The pomp and circumstance, the patriarchy, the racism, the misogyny … it’s all revealed in Ritual America with more than 400 rare images, and strange and humorous text that goes far beyond impenetrable esoterica or near-psychotic conspiracy theory.

This expansive visual guidebook unveils the strangest sort of American history accessed from personal scrapbooks, snapshots, news service photos, lost era magazines, internal documents… Here’s a way of “coming to grip” with the strange phenomenon of fraternal organizations in America, both yesteryear and today.