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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Edward Weston

Born: Edward Henry Weston 
Dates:  1886, 24 March - 1958, 1 January
Born:  US, IL, Highland Park
Active:  US
American landscape, still-life and nude photographer with a fascinating private life. Like Steichen before him, he experimented with photographing everyday objects, vegetables, nudes, dunes, using lighting and camera angle to show the item in a completely new light. He worked for the government on the Farm Security Administration project and set up the f/64 Group.
[Courtesy of Pam Roberts]

Preparing biographies

Biography provided by Focal Press 
Renouncing his early commitment to a soft-focus pictorialism, Weston became one of the most influential advocates of straight photography in America. His images of the ARMCO Steelworks in Ohio, made in 1922, soon after meeting Steiglitz, Strand, and Sheeler, marked a radical shift toward a straight, unpretentious realism in photography. While in Mexico, where he lived for several years with photographer Tina Modotti (his assistant) and befriended artists of the Mexican Renaissance, Rivera, Siqueiros, and Orozco, his aesthetic matured. Upon returning to California in 1927, he began his remarkable close-up photographs of shells and vegetables, including the famous Pepper, No. 30. His studio in Carmel was the site of his lifelong project to photograph the cypress trees, rocks, and beaches of Point Lobos. Working with an 8 x 10 view camera, he made silver and platinum contact prints with exquisite attention to light and form, photographing natural forms, the landscape, and nudes, including a series of his second wife, Charis Wilson. In 1932 he was a founding member of the Group f/64, along with Adams, Van Dyke, Cunningham, and Noskowiak who were proponents of straight photography. The first photographer to be awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1937 and 1938, he produced California and the West (1940). Increasingly incapacitated by Parkinsonís disease, Weston made his last photographs in 1948, and supervised the printing of his lifeís work by his sons, Brett and Cole. 
(Author: Garie Waltzer - Photographer and consultant) 
Michael Peres (Editor-in-Chief), 2007, Focal Encyclopedia of Photography, 4th edition, (Focal Press) [ISBN-10: 0240807405, ISBN-13: 978-0240807409] 
(Used with permission) 

Further research

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Peter Krasnow
Edward Henry Weston (24 Mar 1886 - 1 Jun 1958) 
Family history 
If you are related to this photographer and interested in tracking down your extended family we can place a note here for you to help. It is free and you would be amazed who gets in touch.
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Visual indexes

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Supplemental information


Edward Weston
American, 1886-1958

Edward Weston is one of the twentieth century's most prominent and pioneering photographers. Born in Illinois to a family of preachers, teachers and doctors, he set his sights on being a painter. When his father gave him his first camera in 1902 he fell in love with the art of photography. He moved to California in 1906 and worked as a surveyor for the railroad. He bought a camera and went door to door offering to take photographs of anything from children to funerals. He married Flora Chandler in 1909 and she bore him four sons. By 1911 he set up his first studio in what is now known as Glendale, CA. In the beginning, Weston's work was pictorialist in style, soft-focused and painterly. In 1915 Weston went to the San Francisco World's Fair and it is there that he saw an exhibition of modern art that would greatly influence his vision and technique forever.
Over the next few years Weston found commercial success, and won many prizes for his work, however, he always struggled financially. In 1917 he became a member of the London Salon and in 1922 he met Alfred Stieglitz and Paul Strand. It is in this same year that his work took a dramatic turn. Moving away from the pictorialist style, Weston began putting his subjects in sharp focus and designing powerful compositions. Later in life he burned most of the negatives that he made before 1922, wanting to be remembered for his latter work.
In 1923 with his marriage failing he went to Mexico and opened a studio with his lover and artist Tina Modotti. It is at this time that he began keeping journals which he referred to as "day books". He wrote in his day books until 1943, and in 1961 they were edited by Nancy Newhall and published for the first time. By 1925 Weston started to earn a reputation as an artist and later would be known as "the California photographer". After a few years in Mexico he returned to California and opened a studio in San Francisco with his second son Brett. In 1929 they moved their studio to Carmel where Edward would spend the rest of his life.
Weston, along with Ansel Adams, helped form the famous Group f/64 in 1932 and in 1937 he was the first photographer to receive a Guggenheim Fellowship. Although Weston only worked in large format and mainly in silver and platinum, he did experiment with some color photography later in his life. Sadly, he was stricken with Parkinson's disease in the early 1940s and he relied on his sons, Brett and Cole, to continue printing for him. Cole, his youngest son became his assistant in 1946 and in 1952 the two men put together their father's "50th Anniversary Folio". After Edward's death in 1958 Cole fulfilled his father's wish and continued to print his negatives. For more information on Edward Weston see Edward Weston: Forms of Passion published by Harry N. Abrams.
[Contributed by Lee Gallery] 

Internet biographies

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Wikipedia has a biography of this photographer.Show on this siteGo to website
Getty Research, Los Angeles, USA has an ULAN (Union List of Artists Names Online) entry for this photographer. This is useful for checking names and they frequently provide a brief biography. Go to website
Grove Art Online ( has a biography of this artist. 
[NOTE: This is a subscription service and you will need to pay an annual fee to access the content.]
Show on this siteGo to website
The Cleveland Museum of Art, USA has a biography on this photographer. [Scroll down the page on this website as the biography may not be immediately visible.]Show on this siteGo to website
The International Photographers Hall of Fame has provided a biography.Show on this siteGo to website

Internet resources

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Weston Photography 
Official website of Kim Weston. The site also includes works by Edward, Brett and Cole Weston. 
The Edward Weston / Cole Weston family website. 
Family website for Edward, Cole, Brett, Kim and Cara Weston. 

Printed biographies

The following books are useful starting points to obtain brief biographies but they are not substitutes for the monographs on individual photographers.

• Beaton, Cecil & Buckland, Gail 1975 The Magic Eye: The Genius of Photography from 1839 to the Present Day (Boston and Toronto: Little, Brown & Company) p.157 [Useful short biographies with personal asides and one or more example images.] 
• Capa, Cornell (ed.) 1984 The International Center of Photography: Encyclopedia of Photography (New York, Crown Publishers, Inc. - A Pound Press Book) p.554,555 
• Coke, Van Deren with Diana C. Du Pont 1986 Photography: A Facet of Modernism (New York: Hudson Hills Press, The San Francisco Museum of Art) p.187 
• Fernandez, Horacio (ed.) 2000 Fotografía Pública: Photography in Print 1919-1939 (Aldeasa) p.257-259 [This Spanish exhibition catalogue is one of the best sources for illustrations of photomontage and book design for the period between the two World Wars.] 
• Heyman, Theres Thau 1992 Seeing Straight: Group f.64 (California: The Oakland Museum) p.155 
• International Center of Photography 1999 Reflections in a Glass Eye: Works from the International Center of Photography Collection (New York: A Bulfinch Press Book) p.231 [Includes a well written short biography on Edward Weston with example plate(s) earlier in book.] 
• Weaver, Mike (ed.) 1989 The Art of Photography 1839-1989 (New Haven and London: Yale University Press) p.470-471 [This exhibition catalogue is for the travelling exhibition that went to Houston, Canberra and London in 1989.] 
• Witkin, Lee D. and Barbara London 1979 The Photograph Collector’s Guide (London: Secker and Warburg) p.269-271 [Long out of print but an essential reference work - the good news is that a new edition is in preparation.] 

Useful printed stuff

If there is an analysis of a single photograph or a useful self portrait I will highlight it here.

• Bauret, Gabriel (ed. and text) 2001 Color Photography (New York: Assouline) [Includes example color photographs by Edward Weston] 
• Gruber, Renate and L. Fritz Gruber 1982 The Imaginary Photo Museum (New York: Harmony Books) p.264 
• Naef, Weston 1995 The J. Paul Getty Museum - Handbook of the Photographic Collection (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum) p.167, 196 
• Naef, Weston 2004 Photographers of Genius at the Getty (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum) [For this photographer there is a description and three sample photographs from the Getty collection. p.124-127] 
• Newhall, Beaumont 1982 The History of Photography - Fifth Edition (London: Secker & Warburg) [One or more photographs by Edward Weston are included in this classic history.] 
• Sobieszek, Robert A. and Deborah Irmas 1994 the camera i: Photographic Self-Portraits (Los Angeles: LACMA - Los Angeles County Museum of Art) p.236, Plate 18 [When the Audrey and Sydney Irmas collection was donated to LACMA - Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1992 the museum gained a remarkable collection of self portraits of notable photographers. If you need a portrait of Edward Weston this is a useful starting point.] 
• Szarkowski, John 1973 Looking at Photographs: 100 Pictures from the Collection of The Museum of Modern Art (New York: The Museum of Modern Art) p.84 [Analyzes a single photograph by Edward Weston.] 


Photographic collections are a useful means of examining large numbers of photographs by a single photographer on-line. 

In the 1990 survey of 535 American photographic collections Edward Weston was represented in 118 of the collections. Source: Andrew H. Eskind & Greg Drake (eds.) 1990 Index to American Photographic Collections [Second Enlarged Edition] (Boston, Massachusetts: G.K. Hall & Co.) 
Library of Congress, Washington, USA 
Approximate number of records: 9 
Note: A single record may contain more than one photograph.
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The wit and wisdom.

"Anything more than 500 yards from the car just isn‘t photogenic."
"Anything that excites me for any reason, I will photograph; not searching for unusual subject matter, but making the commonplace unusual."
"Consulting the rules of composition before taking a photograph, is like consulting the laws of gravity before going for a walk."
"I see no reason for recording the obvious."
"My own eyes are no more than scouts on a preliminary search, for the camera‘s eye may entirely change my idea."
"Photography suits the temper of this age — of active bodies and minds. It is a perfect medium for one whose mind is teeming with ideas, imagery, for a prolific worker who would be slowed down by painting or sculpting, for one who sees quickly and acts decisively, accurately."
"Photography to the amateur is recreation, to the professional it is work, and hard work too, no matter how pleasurable it may be."
"The photograph isolates and perpetuates a moment of time: an important and revealing moment, or an unimportant and meaningless one, depending upon the photographer‘s understanding of his subject and mastery of his process."
"Very often people looking at my pictures say, ‘You must have had to wait a long time to get that cloud just right (or that shadow, or the light).‘ As a matter of fact, I almost never wait, that is, unless I can see that the thing will be right in a few minutes. But if I must wait an hour for the shadow to move, or the light to change, or the cow to graze in the other direction, then I put up my camera and go on, knowing that I am likely to find three subjects just as good in the same hour."
"When subject matter is forced to fit into preconceived patterns, there can be no freshness of vision."
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