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Edward Weston

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.

Edward Weston
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.

Edward Weston Shell
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 Los Angeles.

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 in 1927.

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.
Edward Weston Still Life


Along with Ansel Adams and other influential photographers, Weston was a founding member of Group f64.

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 Carmel, California.

 

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 children.


 


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