Edward Weston


Edward Weston Essay, Research Paper

?Weston is, in the real sense, one of the few creative artists of today. He

has recreated the matter-forms and forces of nature; he has made these forms

eloquent of the fundamental unity of the work. His work illuminates man?s

inner journey toward perfection of the spirit.? –Ansel Adams, Date Unknown

Edward Weston (1886-1958) may seem like he was a confused man in trying to find

his photographic goal(s). Just like many other photographers, both of his time

and now, he strove to find what truly satisfied his talent and the acceptance of

himself. He generated something for all photographers. This was success and

recognition as a ?grand master? of twentieth century photography. This was a

legacy that tells an interesting tale; it tells a tale of a thousand plus

successful and loved photographs, a daily journal, and a life with its ups and

downs and broad dimensions. He was born in Highland Park, Illinois, and thus he

was an American photographer. His mother died when he was five, possibly the

reason for his skipping out of his schooling. At the age of sixteen (1902), his

father bought him a Kodak box camera (Bull?s-Eye No. 2). Soon he was saving

money to buy a better 5x& camera with a tripod. Taking photographs

interested and obsessed him. He wrote, ?I needed no friends now. . .Sundays my

camera and I would take long car-rides into the country. . .? In 1906, two

things happened. First, a submission of his was printed in the magazine Camera

and Darkroom. This photograph was called simply ?Spring?. Secondly, he moved

to California to work as a surveyor for San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake

Railroad. From that time on, his interests lied in everything that was

unorthodox (astrology, the occult, nudism, vegetarianism, etc.). Maybe he never

was much of an orthodox type man or photographer. He went back to Illinois for

several months to attend the Illinois College of Photography. The inspiration

behind this was to show his girlfriend, a daughter of a wealthy land-owner that

he?d make money for them. He then headed back to California for good. This

lead to marriage in 1909 and to two sons soon afterwards. During this time,

Weston also became the founding member of the Camera Pictorialists of Los

Angeles. 1911: Began a portrait studio in Tropico, California. This studio would

stay open until 1922. Also 1911: He started writing articles that were published

in magazines. One of these magazines was called American Photographer. His third

and fourth sons were born in 1916 and 1919. Weston had always enjoyed

photography as an art, but, in 1915, his visit to the San Francisco Panama

Pacific Exhibition began a series of events that would lead him to a

renouncement of pictorialism. At the exhibition, he viewed abstract paintings.

These caused him to vow to capture ?the physical quality of the objects he

photographed with the sharpest truthfulness and exactitude?. Thus began a

dissatisfaction with his own work. In 1922, he traveled to Ohio and took

photographs of the Armco Steel Plant and then went to New York. There he met

Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand, Charles Sheck and Georgia O?Keefe. After that,

he renounced pictorialism all together. He often traveled to Mexico during the

1920s, and his photographs included nudes. One of these nudes, named Tina

Modotti, 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 Behind

Altars by Anita Brenner. During this time, he also began to photograph

seashells, vegetables and nudes. In 1929, his first New York exhibit occurred at

the Alma Reed?s Delphic Studios Gallery and later showed at Harvard Society of

Contemporary Arts. His photographs were shown along with the likes of Walker

Evans, Eugene Atget, Charles Sheeler, Alfred Stieglitz, and many others. In

1932, he became a Charter member, along with Ansel Adams, of the ?Group

f/64? Club. The club was also founded that same year. The goal of this club

was to ?secure maximum image sharpness of both foreground and distance?. In

1934, Weston vowed to make only unretouched portraits. He strived to be as far

away from pictorialism as he could. In 1935, he initiated the Edward Weston

Print of the Month Club. He offered photographs for ten dollars each. In 1937,

he was awarded the first Guggenheim fellowship. In 1940, a book called

California and the West featured his photographs and the text of Charis Wilson

his new wife (not the nude, Tina Modotti). In 1941, Weston was commissioned by

the Limited Editions Club to illustrate a new edition of Walt Whitman?s Leaves

of Grass. Weston started suffering from Parkinson?s disease in 1946. That same

year the Museum of Modern Art in New York City featured a retrospective of his

work; three hundred prints were on display. To sort of sign-off from

photographing, Weston went to his favorite photographing spot at Point Lobos.

There he would take his last photographs (1948). For the next ten years, he

supervised his two sons in the printing of Edward Weston life works. Also, in

1952, he published a Fiftieth Anniversary Portfolio. He died in 1958 at his home

in Carmel. From his famous studies of the green pepper to his favorite spots at

Point Lobos, Weston was mainly concerned in photographing nature. That?s why

his photographs encompassed still-lifes, seashells, tree stumps, eroded rocks,

female nudes, landscapes, and other natural forms. His 1936 compilation of

photographs of California sand dunes is considered by many to be his finest

work. Many feel he brought ?regeneration? to photography, and maybe he did.

It seems, whether he liked it or not, that pictorialism never left him. No

matter how sharp and truthful his photographs became or were, they seemed to

always have a pictorial feel. Maybe someday I?ll read through the daily

journal 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 of

the vegetables, seashells, and the rolling dunes meant. Maybe I could understand

his obsession with female nudes and their shapes and his brief period of

industrial scenes. The tale is told. We?ve seen the photographs, few among

thousands. We?ve seen the broad dimensions that encompassed his life. We?ve

also 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.

?Biography of Edward Weston?. (1995-99). Internet (http://www.photo

collect.com/bios/weston.html). Photo Collect. Layout and design by Panorama

Point. 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, New

Hampshire. ?Weston, Edward: American, 1886-1958?. (1986). Internet

(http://www. masters-of-photography.com/w/weston/weston_articles1.html). Text

from The Encyclopedia of Photography.

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