Shawn Mortensen 1965-2009



We lost one of the greats the other day and I have been purposefully remiss in writing about it. It isn’t like Shawn Mortensen wasn’t one of my good friends, but the iconic photographer decided to take his own life. (At one point we split time on my sister’s couch.  We shared many a philosophical moment as our lives were caught in crossroads and needing the assistance of others.)  My own personal philosophy prevents me from concurring in acts of suicide so let that be a warning to you should you decide to determine the timing of your departure from this world; I will not comply with the timing of my grief for you. Just like the loss of another old friend not more than two months ago, this one is deep. Shawn spent his last days in close contact with my brother who has a knack for getting people they help they need as far as rehabilitation is concerned.  It must have been pretty bad on Shawn in order to lose such hope because I’ve seen him overcome even more insurmountable odds.  I feel sort of numb to it all because of the proximity to the death of my friend Coleman Mellett so I won’t write too much about Shawn. I wrote that “we lost” Shawn because you know him too and if you’re reading this you know his work speaks for itself.

I had an insatiable thirst for knowledge about rap celebrities that I idolized from being trapped on a ship in complete isolation and when I got out of the Coast Guard I could always pick Shawn’s brain.  He had worked with them all.  Shawn knew if they were for real, or just phony.  Shawn was one of the guys that you could kick it with all night, too.  He would match you drink for drink, and he wasn’t leaving until all the good weed was smoked.  That’s a guy’s guy for you, right there.  Thinking about all of this shit is actually fucking me up right now and I know why I couldn’t write anything when it happened.  When Lysa told me I was in total disbelief.  Part of me still is, and I keep thinking of silly stuff like the superstition that says this kind of thing happens in threes.  It’s real dumb sounding, too.  I’m out here writing a blog about someone that I probably could have saved.  I’m not saying that my brother wasn’t a good choice seeing as though they shared the same addiction and city of Los Angeles…  I don’t even know what I’m saying, anymore.  Maybe I just wish that I had some more time with Shawn.  I know that it is totally selfish of me considering everything that must have transpired to even get to the point, but I can’t help but think about it.

I borrowed some of his pictures for The Chronicles of Six because I’m trying to remember more of the good stuff about Shawn.  Whether you knew it or not, Shawn Mortensen probably provided the images that you associate with your favorite artists.  The man was probably the most published photographer of the musicians of Generation X.  Shawn was there (in NYC) when hip-hop started but he didn’t just ride that wave.  Shawn crossed genres.  He hit all of the icons in his time and made them even more iconic.




Ghostface Killah, Ian Brown, Ice Cube, Wu-Tang Clan, Dr. Dre, Snoop Doggy Dogg, Mos Def, The Notorious B.I.G. (twice), Tupac (twice), John Lee Hooker, Eric Clapton and John Lee Hooker, and the Godfather of Soul James Brown are some of my favorites.  Click on Shawn’s name above and find your own favorites.  I think that my friend probably took their picture, too. 

Shawn, I put on the Biggie Smalls in a celebration of your life homey.  We’ll always share a love for Brooklyn’s Finest and I always understood and forgave your love of Tupac.  I know you didn’t mean to hurt my feelings in your arguments about who was the bigger influence on the culture.  I’m willing to give all the points awarded for charisma over to you, my friend.  I’m going to miss you.


One Response to “Shawn Mortensen 1965-2009”

  1. Rudolph Says:

    sorry for your loss dude…. very fitting tribute to the legendary.

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