Edward Weston

Edward Weston

1886 - 1958

Edward Henry Weston was born in Highland Park, Illinois, and raised in Chicago. In 1906, Weston moved to California, operating a mobile portrait photography studio, and eventual...

Edward Weston


A pioneer of 20th century photography, Edward Weston’s legacy of carefully composed, exquisitely handcrafted photographs fundamentally altered human perception, transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary through his lens. Ansel Adams wrote: “Weston is, in the real sense, one of the few creative artists. He has recreated the matter-forms and forces of nature; he has made these forms eloquent of the fundamental unity of the world. His work illuminates man’s inner journey toward perfection of the spirit.”

Edward Henry Weston was born in Highland Park, Illinois, and raised in Chicago. In 1906, Weston moved to California, operating a mobile portrait photography studio, and eventually settled in Tropico (Glendale). His soft-focus, Pictorial-style portraits won many salon and professional awards; however, after viewing an exhibition of modern art at the San Francisco World’s Fair in 1915, Weston became dissatisfied with his own work. By 1920, along with his studio partner, Margarethe Mather, he began experimenting with semi-abstractions in a hard-edged style. In 1922, Weston traveled to New York City, where he met Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand and Charles Sheeler. His photographs of the ARMCO Steelworks in Ohio that year marked a turning point in his career. These industrial photographs were “straight” images: unpretentious and true to reality. Weston later wrote: “The camera should be used for a recording of life, for rendering the very substance and quintessence of the thing itself, whether it be polished steel or palpitating flesh.”

In 1923, Weston moved to Mexico City where he opened a studio with his apprentice and lover, Tina Modotti, of whom he made important portraits and nude studies over several years. Through Modotti, an accomplished photographer in her own right, Weston became friendly with artists of the Mexican Renaissance, including Rivera, Siqueiros and Orozco, all of whom encouraged his new direction. In 1924, Weston abandoned the use of soft-focus techniques entirely and started his precise studies of natural forms. He returned to California permanently in 1926, began a series of joint exhibitions with his precocious son, Brett, and thereafter commenced the work for which he is most deservedly famous: natural-form close-ups, nudes, and landscapes.

Edward and Brett Weston opened a San Francisco studio together in 1928. The following year, they moved to Carmel and began photographing in the Point Lobos area. At this time, Edward also organized the American section of the 1929 Stuttgart Film und Foto exhibition with Edward Steichen. In 1932, Weston became a founding member of the Modernist photography Group f/64, along with Ansel Adams, Willard Van Dyke, Imogen Cunningham, and Sonya Noskowiak. The Art of Edward Weston, an edition of nearly 40 photographs, was published by Merle Armitage later the same year. Weston photographed for the WPA Federal Arts Project in New Mexico and California in 1933. He was the first recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship for Photography in 1937 and subsequently, extensively photographed the West and Southwest between 1937-1938. Two years later, he provided illustrations for an edition of Whitman’s, Leaves of Grass, from photographs made in the Southern and Eastern states.

In 1946, a major retrospective of Weston’s work was held at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, which featured 300 of his original photographs. Weston began experiments with color photography the following year, and was the subject of a film, The Photographer, by Willard Van Dyke. Plagued by Parkinson’s disease, Edward took his last photographs at Point Lobos in 1948. During his final 10 years of progressively incapacitating illness, Weston oversaw his son, Brett, making his final portfolio. Edward Weston’s archive is located at the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, Arizona, and his original photographs have sold at auction for a record $1.6 million.


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