Edward Weston photographs are extremely rare today fetching up to 1.5 million dollars! But even though he was a celebrated photographer, he only received
about 7-10 dollars for one photo. However he did earn his living at photography and influenced a whole generation of photographers in the process
Biography of Edward Weston (1886-1958, American)
Weston was a high school dropout who was already beginning to realize business at the age of 25, his enterprise quickly creating a backlog of work.
Right: In Focus - Edward Weston Photographs From the J. Paul Getty Museum
The portrait studio would continue to generate income for another 11 years but Weston was not satisfied to merely supply portraits in order to earn a living.
Intellectually focused and curious, he was a man who seemed unhappy to remain in one place for very long. His experiments made him as much influential as he was
influenced by other photographers of his time.
Weston and Margrethe Mather
One of the most successful Edward Weston photographs is Carlotta (1914), which
took as its subject his future collaborator and lover Margrethe Mather (1886-1952, American).
That same year, the two founded the Camera Pictorialist group of Modern photographers,
primarily of the West Coast of America. Some see Mather as Weston's mentor, although
Weston is credited with encouraging the professional aspects of her work, exhibiting and
working to make her name among artists.
The two worked primarily on editing pictures, distilling the very essence of the subject.
Mather's interest in Asian aesthetics prompted both artists to value simplicity and serenity,
using natural light for effect. Shadows would either distort or provide contrast or drama.
Right: Margrethe Mather and Edward Weston: A Passionate Collaboration
As the cliché informs us however, all good things must come to an end. Weston's relationship with Margrethe Mather - whom he would in the 1950s call
the "most important person in my life" - fizzled. Off to Mexico did Weston go with Italian photographer, political activist, model and actress Tina Modotti (1896-1942).
Mather, minding the store alone, subsequently lost interest after two years and left.
Mexico and His Muse Modotti
Tina Modotti and Edward Weston spent three years in Mexico in the heyday of Modern artists such as Diego Rivera, whom Modotti was instrumental in placing
Weston among. Modotti was Weston's model, muse, and fellow photographer, having begun a career in acting prior to the relationship. Edward Weston photographs of nudes
included Modotti who he photographed in 1924 as part of an experimental series.
The jewel in the crown during the Mexico years is, perhaps, Excusado (1925). He had, like all good Moderns, set his sights on achieving formal perfection,
at the same time capturing great realistic detail and sharp focus. He would take the object - in this case a toilet - out of its expected surroundings. Using natural
light and shadow as part of the composition, Weston achieved the ultimate reality of reducing a specific object to its lines and curves - it was graphic realism.
In the process he vivified the object with a heightened sense of eroticism and transformed it, without sleight of hand, into sculpture.>
Back to the US
Once Weston had exhausted Mexico of the innovation he constantly sought in making pictures, he returned to the United States and was struck by the graphic,
man-made smoke-stack structures and mechanization of the early 20th century. They were the logical content for Modernists who, in many cases, looked to both the
aesthetics and politics of the latest city landscapes.
Although there were certainly many examples of machine and industrial age paintings,
some have suggested that Edward Weston photographs were
inspired by the work of American photographer Imogen Cunningham (1883-1976). Cunningham
had been known for her carefully composed, formalist still-life photography of the Modern
scene prior to Weston's photographs of it. She was, along with Weston, an original
member of Ansel Adams' group f/64 in 1932.
Below: Edward Weston: The Form of the Nude
In the Embrace of Abstraction
Perhaps the most important influence of Cunningham on the work of Edward Weston remains
her highly abstract pictures of sea shells, vegetables, and nudes. These themes and
photographic aesthetics would bring Edward Weston towards a mature, beautifully formal and
erotically suggestive series of photographs of the natural world.
Then in 1933 Edward
Weston met his new muse, Charis Wilson who modeled for Weston's
this period of change. The two married in 1938.
Weston's True Love
Despite two marriages and a string of love affairs, Weston's true love was photography. He
is often credited with bringing photography to its rightful place as art. Ultimately achieving
stellar status among 20th century modern artists and, especially art photographers, Weston
saw the camera as an integral means of conveying the most Modern images that would surpass
older, traditional visual media.
He was never truly attached to one land or to one person in his lifetime, the very picture
of an artist who continually made the production of Modern pictures his life's work. He
connected primarily with other artists, hopping from one to the next, feeding off the
richness of Modernism in his time, creating photographs which continue to resonate .
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