Beauty Matters: The Photography of Edward Weston
I recently watched a news segment, on BBC I think, that described the work of an American photographer I had never heard of. The images in the segment reminded me of early 20th century photographers like Ansel Adams and Alfred Stieglitz. I thought I would do some investigating and find out more about him.
I did a quick search and came up with Edward Weston. This looks like the right guy.
He has been called “one of the most innovative and influential American photographers…” and “one of the masters of 20th century photography.”–from Wikipedia
I searched for his images. I was intrigued by the photographs I saw. They bring to mind the paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe. This guy was an artist. No question about it.
See many excellent photographs here and read more Weston quotes, too: http://landscapephotography2.wordpress.com/2013/07/04/book-edward-weston-125-photographs/
You will find more Weston images here.
I read Weston’s biography on his grandson’s (Kim Weston’s) photography website. Briefly, he was born in Illinois but worked most of his creative life in California and in Mexico. See the chronology here. (It’s all there so I’m not going to re-write it here.)
The biographer stated that Weston’s “pure aims in photography were inseparable from his philosophy of life and living.”
“My work-purpose, my theme, can most clearly be stated as the recognition, recording and presentation of the interdependence, the relativity if all things – the universality of basic form . . . In a single day’s work within a radius of a mile, I might discover and record the skeleton of a bird, a blossoming fruit tree, a cloud, a smokestack; each of these being only a part of the whole, but each – in itself – becoming a symbol of the whole, of life.”—-Edward Weston, from his Guggenheim fellowship application in 1937
If you find yourself wanting more biographical information about Edward Weston you can find it here. This biography was written by Cole Weston.
In the “it’s a small world category” I discovered that Kim Weston’s photographs are being shown right now in Elkhart, Indiana which is very near my hometown. In fact the Westons are in Elkhart this weekend for an event at the Midwest Museum of Art. http://www.kimweston.com/videos/gina-on-the-spot-3-generation-weston-photography-show-in-elkhart-in/
At the same website one can order fine gelatin silver photographs made directly from the original negatives of Edward Weston and printed by Cole Weston (who was Edward’s son and Kim’s father) during Cole’s lifetime.On the back of the mount, each print is titled and dated with Edward’s negative code and is stamped in ink “Negative by Edward Weston print by” and signed by Cole Weston in pencil. Price range for these prints: $3000 – $15,000, just in case you have a lot of spare money lying around.
Not surprisingly, to me at least, is discovering that this talented photographer was also greatly inspired by music.
I feel that I have been more deeply-moved by music, literature, sculpture, painting, than I have by photography.
I never hear Bach without deep enrichment, – I almost feel he has been my greatest “influence.”
I think all creative people feel this next sentiment at some point as well. The desire to grow and excel is a very strong impetus.
“I ask nothing more than to be able to grow in strength,
and achieve the ultimate from my possibilities.”
“My way of working – I start with no preconceived idea – discovery excites me to focus – then rediscovery through the lens – final form of presentation seen on ground glass, the finished print previsioned – complete in every detail of texture, movement, proportion before exposure – the shutter’s release automatically and finally fixes my conception, allowing no after manipulation.”
I like the idea that “discovery excites me to focus.” Sometimes discovery makes me feel a little ADHD! I get too excited about all the possibilities and have difficulty funneling that down to one reality.
For Weston, beauty mattered. It was an indispensable part of life. Moved by the landscape, a stony outcrop on Point Lobos, or the crumbled remains of a ghost town, Weston sought beauty wherever he looked. “I am ‘old-fashioned’ enough to believe that beauty – whether in art or nature, exists as an end in itself:
at least is does for me.”
–quote from A Photographer’s Love of Life, an biographical essay about Weston by Alex Nyereges found on the Kim Weston website. (See link below)
In the related articles section below, the first link will lead you to a 27 minute documentary film entitled “The Photographer.” The film was made in 1948 by the United States Information Service. In it you will see Edward Weston (and an un-named young female assistant) making photographs in various locations. The narration is a priceless time-warp.
The other links below will show more of Weston’s photographs and more about his most famous nude model, Tina Modotti.
A side note: If anyone watches the 1948 video and can track down the name of the young woman, I would be very interested to know. Is she a student? Did she become a well-known photographer? I searched around a bit, but couldn’t find any leads. This is not the main topic of this blog post, but I’m quite curious I must admit.
I must admit something else now! I just did another quick search of the BBC video archive to see if I could find a link to the story I saw that sparked this post. Well, I found it — but it does not feature Edward Weston!!! It features WALKER EVANS! hah!
I guess I know the topic of near-future blog post: Let’s find out about Walker Evans! 🙂
I didn’t know about Edward Weston either so it all worked out it the end. I think it is hilarious that I found another early 20th century B&W photographer (with two “first name” sounding names) instead when I searched for this guy. I’m still shaking my head.
- The Photographer – Edward Weston (originalfotografie.com)
- Tina Modotti: An amazing life in photography (telegraph.co.uk)
- August 5th, 2013 (grayhawkinsgallery.wordpress.com)
- Still… (sherrygaley.wordpress.com)
- Book: Edward Weston 125 Photographs (landscapephotography2.wordpress.com)