“Weston is, in the real sense, one of the few creative artists of today. Hehas recreated the matter-forms and forces of nature; he has made these formseloquent of the fundamental unity of the work.
His work illuminates man’sinner journey toward perfection of the spirit. ” –Ansel Adams, Date UnknownEdward Weston (1886-1958) may seem like he was a confused man in trying to findhis photographic goal(s). Just like many other photographers, both of his timeand now, he strove to find what truly satisfied his talent and the acceptance ofhimself. He generated something for all photographers.
This was success andrecognition as a “grand master” of twentieth century photography. This was alegacy that tells an interesting tale; it tells a tale of a thousand plussuccessful and loved photographs, a daily journal, and a life with its ups anddowns and broad dimensions. He was born in Highland Park, Illinois, and thus hewas an American photographer. His mother died when he was five, possibly thereason for his skipping out of his schooling.
At the age of sixteen (1902), hisfather bought him a Kodak box camera (Bull’s-Eye No. 2). Soon he was savingmoney to buy a better 5x& camera with a tripod. Taking photographsinterested and obsessed him.
He wrote, “I needed no friends now. . . Sundays mycamera and I would take long car-rides into the country.
. . ” In 1906, twothings happened. First, a submission of his was printed in the magazine Cameraand Darkroom.
This photograph was called simply “Spring”. Secondly, he movedto California to work as a surveyor for San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt LakeRailroad. From that time on, his interests lied in everything that wasunorthodox (astrology, the occult, nudism, vegetarianism, etc. ).
Maybe he neverwas much of an orthodox type man or photographer. He went back to Illinois forseveral months to attend the Illinois College of Photography. The inspirationbehind this was to show his girlfriend, a daughter of a wealthy land-owner thathe’d make money for them. He then headed back to California for good.
Thislead to marriage in 1909 and to two sons soon afterwards. During this time,Weston also became the founding member of the Camera Pictorialists of LosAngeles. 1911: Began a portrait studio in Tropico, California. This studio wouldstay open until 1922. Also 1911: He started writing articles that were publishedin magazines. One of these magazines was called American Photographer.
His thirdand fourth sons were born in 1916 and 1919. Weston had always enjoyedphotography as an art, but, in 1915, his visit to the San Francisco PanamaPacific Exhibition began a series of events that would lead him to arenouncement of pictorialism. At the exhibition, he viewed abstract paintings. These caused him to vow to capture “the physical quality of the objects hephotographed with the sharpest truthfulness and exactitude”.
Thus began adissatisfaction with his own work. In 1922, he traveled to Ohio and tookphotographs of the Armco Steel Plant and then went to New York. There he metAlfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand, Charles Sheck and Georgia O’Keefe. After that,he renounced pictorialism all together. He often traveled to Mexico during the1920s, and his photographs included nudes.
One of these nudes, named TinaModotti, would turn into his own personal love affair, breaking up his marriage. He made many photographs in Mexico. Some were published in the book Idols BehindAltars by Anita Brenner. During this time, he also began to photographseashells, vegetables and nudes.
In 1929, his first New York exhibit occurred atthe Alma Reed’s Delphic Studios Gallery and later showed at Harvard Society ofContemporary Arts. His photographs were shown along with the likes of WalkerEvans, Eugene Atget, Charles Sheeler, Alfred Stieglitz, and many others. In1932, he became a Charter member, along with Ansel Adams, of the “Groupf/64” Club. The club was also founded that same year. The goal of this clubwas to “secure maximum image sharpness of both foreground and distance”.
In1934, Weston vowed to make only unretouched portraits. He strived to be as faraway from pictorialism as he could. In 1935, he initiated the Edward WestonPrint of the Month Club. He offered photographs for ten dollars each.
In 1937,he was awarded the first Guggenheim fellowship. In 1940, a book calledCalifornia and the West featured his photographs and the text of Charis Wilsonhis new wife (not the nude, Tina Modotti). In 1941, Weston was commissioned bythe Limited Editions Club to illustrate a new edition of Walt Whitman’s Leavesof Grass. Weston started suffering from Parkinson’s disease in 1946. That sameyear the Museum of Modern Art in New York City featured a retrospective of hiswork; three hundred prints were on display.
To sort of sign-off fromphotographing, Weston went to his favorite photographing spot at Point Lobos. There he would take his last photographs (1948). For the next ten years, hesupervised his two sons in the printing of Edward Weston life works. Also, in1952, he published a Fiftieth Anniversary Portfolio.
He died in 1958 at his homein Carmel. From his famous studies of the green pepper to his favorite spots atPoint Lobos, Weston was mainly concerned in photographing nature. That’s whyhis photographs encompassed still-lifes, seashells, tree stumps, eroded rocks,female nudes, landscapes, and other natural forms. His 1936 compilation ofphotographs of California sand dunes is considered by many to be his finestwork.
Many feel he brought “regeneration” to photography, and maybe he did. It seems, whether he liked it or not, that pictorialism never left him. Nomatter how sharp and truthful his photographs became or were, they seemed toalways have a pictorial feel. Maybe someday I’ll read through the dailyjournal he kept, called Daybooks. It was published, most of it after his death.
Maybe then I could get a feel for what Point Lobos meant and what the shapes ofthe vegetables, seashells, and the rolling dunes meant. Maybe I could understandhis obsession with female nudes and their shapes and his brief period ofindustrial scenes. The tale is told. We’ve seen the photographs, few amongthousands. We’ve seen the broad dimensions that encompassed his life.
We’vealso seen the journal, his daily “pouring out”. It is indeed a true legacy,a legacy that lives on through the sharp, up close-and personal photographs. Bibliography”Biography of Edward Weston”. (1995-99). Internet (http://www.
photocollect. com/bios/weston. html). Photo Collect.
Layout and design by PanoramaPoint. Edward Weston: With an Essay by R. H. Cravens.
(1988). 1997 Edition. Aperture Foundation, Inc. “Weston, Edward (1886-1958)”.
(2000). Internet(http://www. orsillo . com/photographers/edward.
htm). Orsillo of Nottingham, NewHampshire. “Weston, Edward: American, 1886-1958”. (1986). Internet(http://www.
masters-of-photography. com/w/weston/weston_articles1. html). Textfrom The Encyclopedia of Photography.