Edward Weston, born Edward Henry Weston on March
24, 1886, is renowned for changing the way that American photography
developed. For a period of forty years, Weston captured some
of the most unique and influential images of his generation,
from portraits and landscapes to his legendary nude photographs.
Photographer Edward Weston
Two of Weston's photographs, a 1925 nude picture
and an image of a shell taken in 1927, are among the most expensive
photographs ever sold.
Weston was the second child of obstetrician Edward
Burbank Weston and theater actress Alice Jeanette Brett. After
losing his mother at the age of five years, his sister Mary
took over the raising of Weston. Mary was nine years Weston's
senior, and the two were close throughout their lives.
Weston started developing an interest in photography
when his father gave him a Kodak box camera when Weston turned
16. He took the camera on a vacation and instantly became interested
in photography. He soon purchased a used 5×7-inch camera
and started photographing farm and parks scenes in Chicago.
In 1906, the magazine Camera and Darkroom published
one of Weston's pictures, "Spring, Chicago," in the
April edition of the newspaper.
In the meantime, Weston's sister Mary,
who had moved with her husband to California, urged him
to join them, which he did in 1906. However, a year later,
to further his career as a photographer, he moved to Illinois
and enrolled at the Illinois School of Photography. He
completed a nine-month course in six months but the school
held on to his diploma certificate because he refused
to pay the fee for the remaining three months. He returned
to California in 1908 and first picked up a job retouching
negatives with George Steckel's photography studio in
After a brief period at the studio, he moved
on to Louis Mojonier's studio, which was more established at
that time. While working there, Weston met Flora May Chandler,
a member of one of the most powerful families in California
at that time.
The two married in 1909 and with financial help
from Chandler, Weston set up his first studio called "The
Little Studio" in Tropico. Over the course of three years,
working alone, Weston photographed portraits of people he knew
and of children. He soon began winning national competition
prizes for his work utilizing the Pictorial Style, in which
photographs resembled art such as paintings and etchings. He
also began writing for photography magazines, like American
Photography and Photo-Era.
Weston soon joined forces with the photographer
and bohemian Margrethe Mather, with whom he had an affair, and
the two produced joint portraits. She later became a partner
in his studio.
Weston began taking nude photographs, first of
his children and wife Flora, but then also of Mather and then
of Tina Modotti, an actress with whom he also had an affair.
An exhibition in Mexico that Modotti attended to after her husband
Robo's death there was a great success in part because of Weston's
nude images of Modotti. Based on the success of the event, Weston
organized another exhibition the following year in that country.
He moved to Mexico, but after his relationship with Modotti
deteriorated, Weston decided to move back to the United States
After returning to the States, Weston
continued to take nude photographs, but a trip to the
Mojave Desert with his son, Theodore Brett Weston, who
became an important photographer himself, turned his attention
to landscape photography. He later moved to Carmel and
found his muse in that coastal paradise. But because of
financial reasons had to return to Southern California.
Some of his most famous nude photographs were taken of
his love and muse Charis Wilson, who moved in with him
to Santa Monica.
Along with Ansel Adams and other
influential photographers, Weston was a founding member of Group
Weston was one of the first photographers to receive
a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a major exhibition of his work
took place at Paris' Musee National d'Art Moderne in 1950.
Having suffered from Parkinson's disease, Weston
died on New Year's Day in 1958 at his home on Wildcat Hill in
The Rumor Mill
The rumor mill has chugged up a few naughty details
that contrast with the factual biography described above. For
instance, before there was Facebook, Weston is said to have
simply posted pictures on his own face plus the faces of his