Edward Weston

Eumenis Megalopoulos | Jul 3, 2023

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Edward Weston (Highland Park, March 24, 1886 - Carmel, January 1, 1958) was an American photographer, among the most important of the first half of the 20th century.

He worked extensively in California and was invited to the Salon of Photography in London.

In 1920 Weston made a revision of his own work, in which up to that point the use of the flou effect, the artistic blur, had prevailed.

From 1923 to 1926 he worked in Mexico alongside Tina Modotti, with whom he entered into a relationship, and befriended a number of Mexican Renaissance personalities. This was a period in which he found himself and his stylistic path began to change. He was convinced that photography was about capturing life, and in whatever form it presented itself, the only possible way to do that was through realism.

In 1932, together with other photographers, including Ansel Adams, he founded the Group f

This group of photographers founded an aesthetic that was based on ''technical and stylistic perfection'': any photo that was not perfectly in focus or not perfectly printed or not mounted on white cardboard was ''impure.'' This was a violent reaction to the corny, sentimental style that had made California's pictorial photographers famous in those years.

The main aspect of Weston's vision was his continuous insistence that the photographer should already "visualize the picture within himself before he even takes it."

In 1946 Edward Weston began to suffer from Parkinson's disease, and in 1948 he took his last photograph at Point Lobos. He died on January 1, 1958.

If we cast our minds back for a moment and try to get into what might have been the world of artists working on the West Coast of North America in the period between the 1920s and the 1940s, we find a series of movements in slight clash with each other, modernism, realism and pictorialism. It was in the midst of the latter movement that in New York E. Weston took his first steps in photography, beginning with door-to-door portraits.

He soon realizes that his ambition is something else, and that he is not alone; with other photographers such as A. Stieglitz and P. Strand he shares a passion for nature as a subject, a nature in which purity and truth are to be sought, and the need to get away from the society for which they feel nothing but contempt. Thus as early as the early 1920s, completely abandoning the foundations of painterlyism, he became inspired by the new environment around him, that of modernism, which reflected the influences of the European avant-gardes, especially cubism, and his photographs are characterized by naturalness and simplicity, but above all by sharpness and precision.

So although somewhat against the grain E. Weston goes ahead with his style, trying to show the world his way of "seeing" things. With an almost maniacal care for the image, he tries to capture the timeless essence of the object, extracting from it a pure and perfect form set against the background that surrounds it...and which sometimes turns out to be even more "real" than the object itself, ready to be reinterpreted. Wanting to use his own words "...with the utmost rigor; stone is hard, tree bark is harsh, flesh is alive..." He called himself a "straightforward" photographer, constantly searching for the quintessence of the thing.... He is able to transform his photographed subjects into pure visual metaphors for the elements of nature: the close-ups of seashells, peppers, cabbages; the series of rocks and cypresses, photographed by abstracting them from the wild landscape of Point Lobos; the "incomplete," extremely sensual nudes that embody nothing but themselves; the studies of skies and clouds... They can all be said to be part of what later came to be called "Westonian purism." The America he depicts is also more raw and real than it was in reality, or at least than his fellow photographers had "told" until then. The eye that sees Weston's America is extremely objective: desolate places, old cars, abandoned farms, muddy plains. Nothing comfortable or reassuring.

And this is perhaps why Americans like Edward Weston so much, finally a photographer who abandoned the stereotype of photography understood as art. In those days many believed that photography was nothing more than a new class of painting, and the attempt to create painterly effects with the camera grew, creating a series of very similar photographs and photographers; resulting in a series of "photopaintings" that had nothing to do with the naturalness of photography. And even if the results were not related to Pictorialism, even those who were far from this type of photography were photographing a somewhat unreal America, or at any rate of an America that revealed very little about actual conditions. Even one of the masters of photography such as Walker Evans photographed the degraded state of America and became famous for his portraits to the lower classes of society. However, what makes Weston more sincere is perhaps the fact that there is no trace of "posing" in his landscapes or portraits. There are no eyes looking at the lens, no billboards, no clutter distracting the eye. His truth is made of lines, shadows, the white of black and all shades of gray. So Weston at the cost of appearing against the grain is dedicated to his goal of making images that are so pure, true and simple that they are accessible to anyone. Not least because his being objective gave him not only originality but also, and above all, sincerity. And if the images are the witnesses of the photographer's own life, here we are talking about a humble, simple person, without the pretensions that artists normally have, and who perhaps somewhat embodies the average American, a photographer as anyone could have been, a man whose sole purpose was an enormous desire to make known to his world what for him was the truth.

Ansel Adams was fond of saying, "Weston is one of the few creative artists of our time.... His works illuminate man's spiritual journey toward perfection."

Weston is the embodiment of poetry applied to photography, and his driving force is undoubtedly the ongoing quest to identify with nature in order to know it to its deepest essence. It is no coincidence that in 1941 he was proposed by the publisher of Walter Whitman (1819 - 1892), one of the most important poets in American history, to illustrate the fourth edition of his book of poems "Leaves of grass." Whitman's poetry is characterized by the "invention" of free verse (totally at odds with current currents), which seemed to him to be the most direct means of being understood, to which is added the strong love and exaltation of the forces of nature. At least as much as the Point Lobos photos where Weston attempted to "photograph life." The same passion for the purity of things, whether photographs or poems, both were true to the purity of "being." Although the two artists came from two different artistic currents in terms of period and style, more points of union are noticeable between them. In both of them we can see a trail of transcendentalism, which distinguishes their creations, wanting to define in this way the innate passion for describing their artistic inspirations in a manner totally free from all constraints, but above all expressing feelings with absolute objectivity. The Transcendentalist movement was characterized by a kind of "optimism," inducing one to grasp only the positive aspects of nature, where the only reality would be the transcendental one, the a priori form of all other realities.

As far as Weston is concerned, especially during his years in Mexico (1922-27), where he focused on the relationships between "form and subject, realism and abstraction," one can observe in his style, this note of transcendentalism; the continuous search for an image that is totally true, pure and free from any unnatural artifice led him to make shots that although very different from each other, as a theme, all have the same aura, the same force of impact . ..a reality that almost surpasses reality, W. demanded clarity of form, and the fact that the camera could see more than the human eye was like a miracle to him. He himself tells us in his "day books" that "the machine must be used to record life" even if it is abstract, and there is no better means of recording objectivity with total exactitude. In this way the end result is an image that is so true, that it almost appears to us as a symbol of the image itself, but again surprises us by appearing to us for what it is, but as if it were the first time one had observed it. A kind of hyperrealism that reveals the vital essence of things.


  1. Edward Weston
  2. Edward Weston
  3. ^ The Weston exposure meter was invented by Edward Faraday Weston, an electrical engineer and inventor who was not related to photographer Edward Weston. The Weston meter was introduced in 1932 and was widely used by photographers until production ceased in 1967.
  4. Brett & Cole Weston – Conversations with the Masters
  5. Thomas Buchsteiner: Edward, Cole und Kim Weston, S. 7; vgl. Susan Sontag: On Photography, New York 1977
  6. « https://ccp.arizona.edu/artists/edward-weston »
  7. (en) https://www.britannica.com/biography/Edward-Weston-American-photographer

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