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Western art


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War-time types II: the special constable



Francis J Mortimer


1874 - 1944


Francis J Mortimer was a central figure in the key institutions of British pictorial photography. He became known as an exemplary marine photographer and also as an editor of some of the major photographic journals in Britain – most notably ‘Amateur Photographer’ from 1908 to 1944. Mortimer was elected to the fellowship of the Royal Photographic Society in 1905 and the more artistically progressive group of pictorialists, The Linked Ring Brotherhood, in 1907.

During the First World War Mortimer posed some urgent questions regarding the role of pictorial photography in the war effort. The picturesque tendencies of pictorialism made it an unlikely candidate for an art of war. Mortimer therefore sought to broaden its meanings to accommodate an aesthetic of wartime patriotism in order to support the national cause. His own series ‘War-time types’, including ‘The hospital sister’ and ‘The special constable', were exhibited to great acclaim at the London Salon of 1917. Instilled with the contemporary narratives of war, these composite images were understood as a means of portraying a glorified war effort by depicting its everyday protagonists. Photographic manipulation such as composite printing became a prominent feature of photojournalism during the war, and Mortimer also utilised its effects by isolating the figure against a drawn background to further the symbolism of the heroic British ‘type’.

© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007




Media category


Materials used

gelatin silver photograph with ink wash


35.5 x 25.3 cm image/sheet; 49.0 x 31.2 cm card

Signature & date

Signed and dated l.r., pencil "F.J.Mortimer/ 1917".


Gift of Molly Roberson (née Mortimer) 1996


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Francis J Mortimer

Works in the collection


Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history

  • Francis J Mortimer, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 26 Jul 2008–14 Nov 2008

Referenced in 2 publications


Elizabeth Maloney, Francis J Mortimer, 2008.

Denise Mimmocchi, Photography: Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection, 'International pictorialism', pg.53-69, Sydney, 2007, 67 (illus.).