Written into a footnote by the "straight photography" school of the 1950s, William Mortensen was referred to as "the Antichrist" by Ansel Adams, a tag that stuck after Anton LaVey dedicated The Satanic Bible to him. Primarily known as a Hollywood portrait artist, Mortensen developed a myriad of pre-Photoshop special effects to craft grotesque, erotic, and mystical images. This fall, the publisher Feral House is releasing American Grotesque—a monograph on his occult photography—and reissuing his cult-classic photo manual, The Command to Look.
The Incubus, halftone reproduction, unidentified model, possibly Quenton Bredt, wearing West of Zanzibar mask, circa 1926
Untitled (Nude with Stretched Figure), silver gelatin print, montage effect, unidentified models, possibly William Mortensen on the right, circa 1926
Courtesy of the Hereward Carrington estate
These pictures originally appeared in the 2014 VICE photo issue.