Edward Weston is the most influential figure in photography history. He was photographing the United states during the two world wars and the Great Depression. He took photos of objects, exploring them in a modern style. He is known for portraits of his family members and friends, dramatic still- life, landscapes, and nudes. For fifteen years, he recorded in “journals the experiences that shaped the direction of his work, personal critiques of his own prints, and his thoughts on photography in general” (Abbott 5-6).
In 1908, he attended Illinois College of Photography. He became very successful in working with soft- focus pictorial style. He gained international reputation for his high key portraits and modern dance studies. His photos were published in popular magazines, such as American Photography, Photo Era, and Miniature. (Edward Weston & Cole Weston Family Website)
Weston was born March 24, 1886 in Highland Park, Illinois. Most of his photography occurred in the 1920s. He had a Pictorialist style, which means that he made his photographs look like paintings. His first studio was opened in Mexico, then he retuned to the US, where he created nudes, close ups, natural forms and landscapes. (Biography.com)
In 1906, Weston moved from his hometown outside of Chicago to Tropico, California, married Flora Chandler in January of 1909, and was employed at the portrait studio of A. Louis Mojonier, in Los Angeles. Here he spotted negatives and operated the camera to make standard portraits. At this studio, Flora was the model for a nude study in the Pictorial mode. He had a famous piece of her reaching up to a tree as if she were to pick fruit, giving a biblical allusion. This image was one of the first explorations of the nude body, which will continue throughout his career (Abbott 14).
In the years 1915 to 1917, Weston became one of the most successful photographers. He received a “bronze medal at the Panama- Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco, an issue of Camera magazine was dedicated to his work, the Photographers’ Association of America honored him as one of the best Pictorial photographers in the nation, and he was elected an acting member of the prestigious London Salon of Photography.” He also received an honorable mention at the Fifteenth Annual Exhibit of the Wilkes- Barre Camera Club, for a woman dressed in a Japanese costume (Abbott 16).
Betty Brandner was introduced to Weston by a colleague, she was featured in many of his photos in her attic. The photo was part portrait and part of an experiment with Modernism. Many of Weston’s friends are featured in his work, “capitalizing on dramatic lighting, full-frame composition, and hand gestures to capture something more complex (Abbott 20).”
Another woman he met was Margrethe Mather, in 1912. She was featured in a photograph sitting in a chair nude. Weston takes nude female models and uses props such as chest, vases, or orbs, to give the photos modernized feels (Abbott 28). Mather had a very strong influence on Weston. She was featured in many of his works for a whole decade (Edward Weston & Cole Weston Family Website).
Neil Weston was one of Edward and Flora’s four sons. He was used many times in photographs in the early 1920s, because he was “absolutely natural and unconscious in front of the camera.” Weston intended for the photos of his son to be family heirlooms and aesthetic statements shared with other artists (Abbott 24).
In 1922, he visited his sister in Ohio where he took a well known photo of Armco Steel, in Middletown, Ohio. It was a photo of industries, modernized. After Ohio, he traveled to New York City, where he met photographer Alfred Stieglitz, who had rejected and praised his pictures. Stieglitz showed Weston his photographs and his wife’s, Georgia O’Keeffe, paintings, which inspired Weston in his future works. (Abbott 26)
In 1923, Weston moved to Mexico, where he took most of his famous nude shots. Between the years 1927 and 1930, he had made “a series of monumental close ups of seashells, peppers, and halved cabbages, bringing out the rich textures of their sculpture- like forms.” (Edward Weston & Cole Weston Family Website)
In 1936, Weston took a series of nudes and sand dunes in Oceano, CA, which can be considered his finest work. In that same year, he was the first photographer to receive a Guggenheim Fellowship for experimental work.
During WW2, Weston traveled with Charis Wilson, his future wife, across country, from California to Maine. They took many pictures of landscapes, over the vast 24,000 miles. These photos were then used for the production of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. (Edward Weston & Cole Weston Family Website)
The NYC Museum of Modern Art featured a retrospective exhibit of Weston’s work, which included over 300 prints (Biography.com)
In 1946, Weston began experiencing Parkinson’s disease. His last photo was shot in 1948, which was Point Lobobs (Edward Weston & Cole Weston Family Website). On January 1st, 1958, Weston passed away (Biography.com).
“The camera should be used for a recording of life, for rendering the very substance and quintessence of the thing itself, whether it be polished steel or palpitating flesh.” (Edward Weston & Cole Weston Family Website)
Abbott, Brett, Edward Weston. Edward Weston: Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum.
Getty Publications, 2005, Los Angeles, CA.
Biography.com. Edward Weston. A&E Television Networks, April 2, 2014.
https://www.biography.com/people/edward-weston-9528521. Accessed 7 September
Edward Weston & Cole Weston Family Website. 2017. http://edward-weston.com/edward-
weston/. Accessed 9 September 2017.
Weston, Edward. Masters of Photography. http://www.masters-of-photography.com
/W/weston/weston7.html. Accessed 6 September 2017.