Edward Weston Biography


Birthday: March 24, 1886 (Aries)

Born In: Highland Park, Illinois, United States

Edward Henry Weston has often been referred to as ‘one of the most innovative and influential American photographers’ and ‘one of the masters of 20th century photography’. After being presented a camera by his father at a young age, he soon made photography his passion. Much of his early photography can be identified as ‘Pictorialist’ style, meaning they imitated paintings. Later, he switched to realism and his photography produced true to life, unpretentious images. He traveled to Mexico, where he opened a photographic studio with his lover, Tina Modotti. During this time, Weston took a number of portraits and nudes for which he's known even today. Several Mexican artists of the time, including Diego Rivera, David Siqueiros and Jose Orozco began to admire his work. He returned to the United States, settling in California, where he continued to create—nudes, close-ups, natural forms and landscapes, among several other works. In the 1940s, he took several portraits of his family members that are now considered among his best work. The New York City's ‘Museum of Modern Art’ featured retrospective exhibit of Weston's work that included 300 prints. Diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, he spent the last decade of his life assisted by his sons printing and publishing his work.
Quick Facts

Also Known As: Edward Henry Weston

Died At Age: 71


Spouse/Ex-: Charis Wilson (m. 1939)

father: Edward Burbank Weston

mother: Alice Jeanette Brett

siblings: Mary

children: Cole Weston Brett Weston

American Men American Photographers

Died on: January 1, 1958

place of death: Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, United States

Cause of Death: Parkinson's Disease

U.S. State: Illinois

Founder/Co-Founder: Versace Group

More Facts

awards: March 22
1937 - Guggenheim grant

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Childhood & Early Life
Weston was born in Highland Park, Illinois, to Edward Burbank Weston who was an obstetrician. His mother, Alice Jeanette Brett, a Shakespearean actress, died when he was just five.
His sister Mary, older to him by nine years brought him up. Their father remarried, but the siblings did not share a very warm relationship with their new stepmother and stepbrother.
On his 16th birthday, his father presented him his first camera, a Kodak Bull's-Eye. He started taking photos all around in Chicago parks and also at his aunt’s farm and developed his own film and prints.
His started sending his works to the magazine, ‘Camera and Darkroom’ for publishing and in 1906 the magazine published his picture ‘Spring, Chicago’.
In 1907, he enrolled at the ‘Illinois School of Photography’. He finished the 9-month course in just 6 months. But he did not get the certificate as he refused to pay the full course fee.
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For some time, he was associated with George Steckel’s photography studio in Los Angeles. Later, he joined Louis Mojonier’s studio where he got acquainted with all the aspects of operating a studio.
In 1911, he opened, ‘The Little Studio’, in Tropico. For the next three years, he made portraits and wrote articles for the magazines ‘Photo-Era’ and ‘American Photography’, championing the pictorial style.
In 1913, Los Angeles photographer, Margrethe Mather visited his studio. They developed an intense relationship. He found Mather's uninhibited lifestyle irresistible and her photographic vision intriguing and asked her to be his studio assistant.
In 1915, he started keeping a detailed journal which he called his ‘Daybooks’. For the next two decades, he recorded his thoughts about his work, observations about photography and his interactions with friends, lovers and family.
In 1920, he met Roubaix de l'Abrie Richey and Tina Modotti. They were a part of the growing LA cultural scene. The latter became his lover and apprentice.
In 1922, the photographer visited the ARMCO Steel Plant in Middletown, Ohio, which was a turning point in his career. Quite contrary to his Pictorialist style, the industrial photographs were unpretentious and true to reality images.
In 1923, he moved to Mexico City with Tina Modotti and created many important portraits, nudes and still lifes, including the series of monumental heads, the portraits of Modotti reciting poetry and the ‘Excusado’.
Weston was one of the founding members of the Group f/64 in 1932 that sought to promote a new Modernist aesthetic based on precisely exposed images of natural forms.
In 1934, he met Charis Wilson and entered into an intense relationship. He moved to Santa Monica Canyon, California, due to financial difficulties and she joined as his assistant and quasi-agent
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He began taking a new series of nudes with Wilson as the model. One of the first photographs he took of her, on the balcony of their home, became one of his most published images.
At Oceano Dunes, near Santa Monica, he captured Wilson in completely uninhibited poses in the sand dunes but exhibited only a couple of them. The rest he thought were ‘too erotic’ for public viewing.
In 1937, he was awarded the first Guggenheim Fellowship ever presented to a photographer.
He signed a contract with Phil Townsend Hanna, editor of ‘AAA Westway Magazine’ to produce 8-10 photos per month during his Guggenheim travels. His trip covered 16,697 miles in 197 days and produced 1260 negatives.
In 1941, he was invited to illustrate a new edition of Walt Whitman's ‘Leaves of Grass’. He and Wilson undertook the trip covering 20,000 miles through 24 states.
In 1946, his major retrospective opened at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. 250 photographs were displayed along with 11 negatives. He sold 97 prints from the exhibit at $25 per print.
In 1948, he took his last photographs ‘Rocks and Pebbles’, at Point Lobos. Diminished in his capacity, he worked with his sons to catalog his images and oversaw the publication of his work.
Major Works
Nautilus’, a black-and-white photograph taken by Weston in 1927 of a single nautilus shell standing on its end against a dark background, has been called ‘one of the most famous photographs ever made’.
His 1930 photograph, ‘Pepper No. 30’, depicts a green pepper in rich black-and-white tones. By placing the pepper in a funnel opening, he could light it in a way that portrays the pepper three-dimensionally.
Personal Life & Legacy
A philanderer, Weston had intense relationships with many women— Margrethe Mather, Tina Modotti, Miriam Lerner, and Sonya Noskowiak. He got married twice, first to Flora May Chandler in 1909 and then to Charis Wilson.
From his marriage to Flora May Chandler he had four sons. The marriage ended after 28 years, mostly spent separately. Charis left him, after he was diagnosed with Parkinson’ Disease in 1945.
This pioneering American photographer’s ashes were scattered in the Pacific Ocean at Pebbly Beach on Point Lobos. He had $300 in his bank account at the time of his death.
This photographer once declared, “Anything that excites me for any reason, I will photograph; not searching for unusual subject matter, but making the commonplace unusual”.

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