Edward Weston (1886-1958) and A Classic Essay on Photography

November 4, 2008

Edward Weston was born on March 24, 1886 in Illinois. He was an American Photographer; living and taking pictures in Chicago for most of his young life. At 16, he was given his first camera. Weston studied at Illinois College of Photography in Effington, Illinois and moved to California in 1906. Weston had four children with first wife Flora Chandler in 1909: Edward Chandler (1910), Theodore Brett (1911), Laurence Neil (1916) and Cole (1919) and opened a portrait studio in California. Weston was later inspired by ARMCO Steel Plant in Middletown, Ohio. In 1923, he moved to Mexico City and opened a studio with his lover Tina Modotti. Tina and Edward moved back to California in 1927, where he developed his unique photographic techniques that have made him famous. He began taking pictures of the West and Southwest United States with assistant and future wife Charis Wilson from 1936-1938. In 1946 Weston began to experience symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease and died on the first of January, 1958 in Carmel, California. 

Weston was known for his work with shells, vegetables, abstract nudes, and natural rock and tree formations in California and Mexico. His portraits were generally frame filling and sharp. His photography seemed luxurious with abstract shapes and heavy contrast. He was considered a Modernist photographer. Also known for “straight photography” which was the renunciation of manipulation of the photographic process, (i.e. the use of a soft lens, special developing or printing methods). He wanted to capture a realistic depiction of life rather than take more artistic, soft-focused photos like those of Pictorialism, which was popular at the time. 

I respect Weston because of his emphasis on Straight Photography and participation in Group f/64 with other photographers like Ansel Adams, Willard van Dyke and Imogen Cunningham. His photographs have definition and clarity through Weston’s use of contrast and texture. His use of a small aperture, which determines the depth of field, sharpens the background with the foreground and increases the contrast. 

Pepper, 1930

Pepper, 1930

Nude, 1936

Nude, 1936

Oceano, 1936

Oceano, 1936

 

Classic Essays on Photography:

 

Photography and Photography and the New God

by Paul Strand (1890-1976)

The article, “Photography and Photography and the New God” was written by an American photography named Paul Strand (1890-1976). He helped establish photography as an art form within the twentieth century through his modernist theory. He is comparable to photographers like Edward Weston and Alfred Steiglitz and has photographed within America, Europe and Africa. 


The article itself is based on this concept of straight photography and photographic objectivity. Strand distinguishes artists before the Reformation as having been renowned for their work. However after the Reformation, the New Trinity or, “God the Machine, Materialistic Empiricism the Son, and Science the Holy Ghost,” gained the logical focus and artful expression was considered a “waster and a non-producer” (145). With the introduction of the camera, a creation of this new industrial era, some photographers found it necessary to emulate classic mediums of art (painting, oil pastels, sketches, etc.) through photography. This is an impressionist concept; a concept under much scrutiny from the modernist perspective. Strand argues that photography is an art form in itself and must be respected for what it is. The use of mechanical manipulation and deviating the development process to make a realistic image appear like a different type of medium takes away from the natural expression of the photograph. If a photograph is changed in such a way, it is no longer a photograph. 

The article was a little redundant at times and the term “New God” became a bit ambiguous near the end. However, Strand’s work is a great example of modernist thought and theory when it comes to the photographic process. It goes hand in hand with the theory developed by photographers like Edward Weston, and also captures the concepts of objectivity and straight photography. 

 

 

Here is my attempt at an Edward Weston Photograph. This is “Pepper, 2008”.

Pepper, 2008

Pepper, 2008

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