Edward Weston was born in 1886 in Highland Park, Illinois. When he was sixteen years old his father gave him a Kodak Bulls-Eye #2 camera and he began to photograph at his aunt’s farm and in Chicago parks.
In 1903 Weston first had his photographs exhibited at the Chicago Art Institute. Soon after the San Francisco earthquake and fire on April 19, 1906, Weston came to California to work as a surveyor for San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad.
For a short while Weston returned to Chicago and attended the Illinois College of Photography, but came back to California to live in 1908 where he became a founding member of the Camera Pictorialists of Los Angeles. He married Flora Chandler in 1909 and they soon gave birth to two sons: Edward Chandler Weston, in 1910 and Theodore Brett Weston in 1911.
Weston had his own portrait studio in Tropico, California and also began to have articles published in magazines such as American Photography, Photo Era and Photo-Miniature where his article entitled “Weston’s Methods” on unconventional portraiture appeared in September, 1917.
Weston’s third son, Laurence Neil Weston, was born in 1916 and his fourth, Cole Weston, in 1919.
Soon after, Weston met Tina Modotti which marked the starting point of their long relationship, photographic collaborations in Mexico and later much publicized love affair.
Modotti’s husband, a political radical in Mexico, died in 1922.
That same year Weston traveled to Ohio to visit his sister and there took photographs of the Armco Steel Plant. From Ohio he went to New York and met Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand, Charles Sheeler and Georgia O’Keefe.
At this time Weston renounced Pictorialism and began a period of transition, self-analysis and self-discipline while making voyages to Mexico, often with Modotti and one of his sons. Some of the photographs that he and Modotti made in Mexico were published in Anita Brenner’s book Idols Behind Altars.
Weston began photographing shells, vegetables and nudes in 1927. Weston kept very detailed journals or “Day Books” of his daily activities, thoughts, ideas and conversations. His first publication of these writings “From My Day Book” appeared in 1928 – others were published after his death.
Two years later he had his first New York exhibit at Alma Reed’s Delphic Studios Gallery and later exhibited at Harvard Society of Contemporary Arts with Walker Evans, Eugene Atget, Sheeler, Stieglitz, Modotti and others.
Weston was a Charter member of the “Group f/64” that was started in 1932 and included Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham, Consuelo Kanaga and others.
They chose this optical term because they habitually set their lenses to that aperture to secure maximum image sharpness of both foreground and distance. Weston went even further toward photographic purity in 1934 when he resolved to make only unretouched portraits.
Even though several large exhibitions followed, he was still of modest means and in 1935 initiated the “Edward Weston Print of the Month Club” offering photographs at $10 each.
In 1937 he was the first photographer to be awarded a Guggenheim fellowship taking his assistant Charis Wilson along on his travels whom he married the next year.
In 1940 the book California and the West was published with text by Charis and photographs by Edward. The same year he participated in the U.S. Camera Yosemite Photographic Forum with Ansel Adams and Dorthea Lange.
In 1941 he was commissioned by Limited Editions Club to illustrate a new edition of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.
Weston started experiencing symptoms of Parkinson’s disease in 1946 and in 1948 made his last photographs at Point Lobos.
In 1952 his Fiftieth Anniversary Portfolio was published with his images printed by Brett.
In 1955 Weston selected several of what he called “Project Prints” and began having Brett, Cole and Dody Warren print them under his supervision.
Lou Stoumen released his film The Naked Eye in 1956 of which he used several of Weston’s print as well as footage of Weston himself.
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