19 January, 2009

Edward Weston

Edward Henry Weston was an American photographer, and co-founder of Group f/64. Most of his work was done using an 8 by 10 inch view camera.

Born in Highland Park, Illinois on March 24, 1886. He was given his first camera, a Kodak Bull's-Eye #2, for his 16th birthday, when he began taking photographs. His favorite hangouts were Chicago parks and a farm owned by his aunt. Weston met with quick success and the Chicago Art Institute exhibited his photographs a year later, in 1903. He attended the Illinois College of Photography.

In 1906, Weston moved to California, where he decided to stay and pursue a career in photography. He had four sons with his wife, Flora May Chandler (whom he married in 1909): Edward Chandler (1910), Theodore Brett (1911), Laurence (1914) and Cole (1919). In 1910, Weston opened his first photographic studio in Tropico, California (now Glendale) and wrote articles about his unconventional methods of portraiture for several high-circulation magazines.

In 1922, Weston experienced a transition from pictorialism to straight photography, becoming "the pioneer of precise and sharp presentation". His pictures included the human figure as well as items of nature, including seaside wildlife, plants, and landscapes. Tina Modotti, his professional (and romantic) partner, often accompanied him to Mexico, creating much gossip in the media. Weston's sons were also frequent companions, receiving lessons in photography from their experienced father. Brett and Cole later embarked on their own careers in the field, along with Weston's grandson Kim and great-granddaughter Christine.

After 1927, Weston worked mainly with nudes, still life — his shells and vegetable studies were especially important — and landscape subjects. After a few exhibitions of his works in New York, he co-founded Group f/64 in 1932 with Ansel Adams, Willard Van Dyke and others. The term f/64 referred to a very small aperture setting on a large format camera, which secured great depth of field, making a photograph appear evenly sharp from foreground to background. Weston also achieved great sharpness by not enlarging. He made contact prints from his 4x5" or 8x10" negatives. The detailed, straight photography that the group espoused was in opposition to the pictorialist soft-edged methods that were still in fashion at the time.

In 1937 the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation awarded Weston a fellowship, the first given to a photographer. He married his assistant, Charis Wilson, the following year (they had lived together since 1934, and divorced in 1946). During this time he received exclusive commissions and published several books, some with Wilson, including an edition of Whitman's Leaves of Grass illustrated with his photographs. He also produced some of his few color photographs with Willard Van Dyke in 1947. Weston also collaborated on several volumes of his photographs with photography critic Nancy Newhall, beginning in 1946.

Stricken with Parkinson's Disease, Weston made his last photographs at Point Lobos State Reserve in 1948. 1952 saw the publication of a 50th-anniversary portfolio of his work, printed by his son Brett. Brett and Cole Weston, as well as Brett's wife Dody Warren, were appointed to print 800 of what he considered his most important negatives under his supervision in the years 1955 to 1956.

Edward Weston died in his house on Wildcat Hill in Carmel Highlands in Big Sur, California on January 1, 1958, aged 71.

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