Shawn Mortensen (1965-2009) was a Los Angeles based photographer, artist, director and activist. He was raised in Orange County, California, and attended Regents College in London, and then USC where he majored in art and film. His iconic photographs have been exhibited at New York's Whitney Museum, the Guggenheim Museum, the International Center of Photography and the J. Paul Getty Museum. His photos appeared on the covers of The Source, Vibe, ego trip, SPIN, XXL, TRACE , The New Order, andfeatured in i-D, Blackbook, Interview,Vanity Fair,Flaunt, Americanand British Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, GQ Italia, Esquire and countless other publications. He photographed advertising campaigns for Nike, Coca-Cola, Kodak, Levi's, Stussy, Supreme, Jolie Jeans and Adriano Goldschmied. He also won an MTV music video award.
A global traveler, Shawn captured the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas, Mexico; he documented the dance halls and shantytowns of Kingston, Jamaica, the people of South Africa, Nigeria, Ethiopia and Mongolia. He simply did not go to these far lands to take photographs, he was an activist. He was involved in AIDS awareness going to South Africa and Lagos, Nigeria to create an MTV short documentary and collaborate with the REDHOT organization, just one of the many causes he helped. His photographs gave the subject a sense of dignity no matter who it was, be it a celebrity, a socialite or an AIDS orphan. That came from his incredible sense of humility.
"Shawn was one of the most talented photographers I've ever known, but that's only a part of what made him so remarkable. He was incredibly passionate about art and culture, but humble about his place in that community. He knew everyone, and had the best stories, but never dropped names. Shawn knew what most thoughtful and intelligent people do, that people's lives, however simple, make the best art. What made him unique was how he executed that. Every subject was given equal respect, equal measure. Not many contemporary photographers could do what he did - reconcile the business of photography with a sincere sense of social responsibility. More important than Shawn's photography was who he was outside of it - he was a fiercely loyal friend and a true gentleman." (Leigh Andersen, his former agent from Montage)
During his lifetime he completed two books, It's My Life...Or It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time published by BAPE Gallery/A Bathing Ape 2002 and his second book, Out of Mind published by Abrams Books 2007.
In recent years, his photographs have been included in the Brooklyn Museum 2009-2013 touring exhibit, Who Shot Rock & Roll and accompanying book by author Gail Buckland, and the Grammy Museum 2011 exhibition and book, Hip-Hop: A Cultural Odyssey.