MORTIMER, Francis James

b. 1874; d. 1944

Francis Mortimer, a keen yachtsman, is best known for his dramatic sea-scapes, many being combination prints, coupled with other manipulations.

He was elected a member of the Linked Ring in 1907; it was he, in fact, who was instrumental in its demise only a couple of years later, when editor of "Amateur Photographer." In fact, his main sphere of influence lay in the various editorships of photographic journals, including "Photograms of the Year."

One of Mortimer's most famous pictures is the "Gate of Goodbye" - a combination print made from a number of negatives, the background being the archway leading to Waterloo station, where many families parted with their sons and husbands, as they set off to the war.

Mortimer was a close friend of Lord Carnarvon, an Egyptologist who was one of the two who discovered the Tutankhamen treasures. It is said that on one of his frequent visits to show photographs, he was often greeted with "What a wonderful lens your camera has", which he found distinctly irritating. He got his own back; when one of Carnarvon's guests displayed the grouse he had shot that day, Mortimer beamed with admiration, and then said "What a superb gun you must have!"

Though Mortimer was an influential person who in his lifetime received many honours, his dislike for what he saw as "American temporary art crazes" left Britain somewhat isolated in the photographic world after the first World War. As a result he tends - quite undeservedly - to be largely ignored in modern photographic history books.

© Robert Leggat, 1999.