Fine Portraiture


As photographer William Mortensen posited in his 1940s-era book “Command to Look,” it is incumbent upon the photographer to essentially take the viewer by the eye and lead her or him to see a photographic subject in an intended way.


His photographic style was carried forward to the present by only one of his students, Robert S. Balcomb of Silverdale, Wash. Balcomb has spent the past 50 years refining Mortensen’s method to take best advantage of modern photographic materials while retaining the hands-on aspect of the art.


As Balcomb’s only practicing apprentice, it is my aim to keep the Mortensen portraiture method alive for at least another 50 years, then pass it on to a photographer who can master it. In addition, I continue to work to create an appreciation of the style among my portrait customers and the gallery-going public.


Each of these prints starts with a medium format negative shot with a camera similar to the one Mortensen used while making his masterpieces in his Laguna Beach, Calif. studio. I create silver prints of these negatives in 11x14 format in my darkroom, then hand retouch them using photo dyes and abrasives. The end product is photography that brings out a person’s true appearance, and speaks volumes about who each portrait subject is.

Images © 1993-2012 Matt Johnson dba Matt Johnson Photography.

Matt Johnson is a professional photographer located in Minneapolis, MN.