Edward Weston was born in 1886 and was an influential and pioneering American photographer, who over the course of his 40 year career traversed a number of different styles including nude, landscape, portrait and still life’s. Because of his focus on the American west, along side Ansel Adams, Weston was referred to as “quintessentially American, and specially Californian, approach to modern photography” (pitts:27). Edward left his home state of Illinois to pursue a career in photography in California in 1906 until a year later he moved back to Illinois to the town of Effingham, to study at the Illinois School of Photography which after a year was over so he moved back to Cali. From an early start in his career he was very particular and critical of his work, ensuring he got what he wanted while working at his studio ‘the little studio’ in Tropico. His pictorial images soon brought him the recognition he was deserved, being published and writing articles for a number of national publications.
Over a period of four years Weston travelled back and forth to, and around Mexico first with his eldest son, and subsequently with his second eldest, along with his lover, Tina Modotti who he had earlier been one of his first nude studies. While in Mexico Weston had a number of exhibitions that brought him critical acclaim. Upon his arrival back in California he found his attention being taken by still life photography, namely that of shells which he hoped would kindle an inspiration for a series.
It was in 1927 that Edward Weston met Willard Van Dyke and Ansel Adams, they would go onto me three of the seven founding members of group f/64.
It was from this point that Edward Weston took a strong interest in landscape photography, the strong element that led to the beginning of group f/64 along with Ansel Adams who I have looked at previously.
In 1937 Weston became the first photographer to receive the prestigious Guggenheim Grant, he received $2,000 for the year and further capitalised on the honour by building a relationship with a publication for images each month from his various trips, as was his dream to be able to photograph anywhere he wanted and now with the grant he was able to do so.
In the later years Edward worked mainly with his sons and an assistant to catalogue and publish his work, while a number of important exhibition of his, namely at the Smithsonian Museum and the Museum of Modern Art in Paris and in 1958 Edward Weston died on New Years Day.
This still life image of a cabbage leaf taken in 1931 is an example of Weston’s still life work, his control of lighting and detail achieve with the large format camera is exquisite, I also like his close composition, giving an idea of the edges but focusing the viewer on the changes in light and texture.
This landscape by Edward Weston gives us a clear indication of the connection he and Ansel Adams had and the basis for the group f/64, the converging hill lines and the respective reflection give great depth and context while also pulling the viewer in. His addition of a more detailed foreground, something I find Adams doesn’t include is useful in aiding an understanding of the environment and the tonal range is very pleasing.
This is a stunning example of Edward Weston’s nude photography, the strong tonal differences stand the subject out wonderful against the background and foreground and soft lighting accentuates her features while the pose gives the impression of a shy person, looking to be coerced into looking towards the camera, however this air of mystery adds to the subtle erotic nature of the image. Nude photography has never been a style that has interested me practically or as an admirer however considering Weston’s work in this style I have begun to understand the premise and beauty and in these crafted photographs.