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Edward Weston

Edward Weston (March 24, 1886 - January 1, 1958) was an American photographer, co-founder of the Group f/64 and inventor of the Weston light meter.

Most of his work was done using an 8 by 10 inch view camera such as the one depicted below:

Edward Weston with his Graflex camera, Mexico, 1923. Photograph by Tina Modotti

Life and work

Edward Weston was born in Highland Park, Illinois on March 24, 1886. In 1902, he received his first camera for his sixteenth birthday, a Kodak Bull's-Eye #2, and began taking photographs in parks in Chicago and at his aunt's farm. The young Weston met with quick success, and his photographs were already being exhibited at the Chicago Art Institute merely a year later, in 1903.

In 1906, Weston moved to California, where he ultimately decided to stay and pursue a career as a portrait photographer. He married his first wife, Flora May Chandler, in 1909, and she begot him four sons: Chandler (1910), Brett (1911), Neil (1914) and Cole (1919). In 1911, 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.

1922 marked a period of transition for Weston. Renouncing pictorialism in favor of straight photography, he began regular visits to Mexico with his professional and romantic partner, Tina Modotti, whose relationship with Weston was the cause of much gossip in the media. They were often accompanied by one of Weston's sons, who received a sound instruction in photography. Brett and Cole later embarked on their own, successful careers in this field.

Nude, 1936

Pepper No. 30, 1930

After 1927, Weston chose mainly nudes, but also shells and vegetables, as his subject matter. After a few exhibitions of his works in New York, he went on to found Group f/64 in 1932 with fellow photographers Ansel Adams, Willard van Dyke and others. The term f/64 referred to the smallest aperture setting on a large format camera, which secured maximum depth of field, rendering a photograph evenly sharp from foreground to background. This corresponded to the philosophy of straight photography which the members of the group espoused in response to the pictorialist methods that were still in fashion at the time.

According to the group's manifesto, the members of Group f/64 believe that photography, as an art form, must develop along lines defined by the actualities and limitations of the photographic medium, and must always remain independent of ideological conventions2 of art and aesthetics that are reminiscent of a period and culture antedating the growth of the medium itself.

Weston was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship in 1937, the first photographer to win this award. He married his assistant, Charis Wilson, the following year. During this time he received exclusive commissions3 and published several books, some with Wilson, including an edition of Whitman's Leaves of Grass illustrated with his photographs. He also produced some rare color photographs with Willard van Dyke in 1947.

Stricken with Parkinson's Disease, Weston made his last photographs at Point Lobos, California in 1948. 1952 saw the publishing of a fiftieth-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 1955-56.

Edward Weston died in his house in Carmel, California on January 1, 1958. His comprehensive legacy includes the detailed and articulate Daybooks he kept regularly from the mid-1920s to 1934, which allow a very intimate glimpse into his thoughts and reasonings.

Selected publications