Edward Weston 1886-1958
is a handsome, large and extensive collection of the seminal 20th
century photographer’s work, published by Taschen in 1999. The publisher has rereleased much of the book’s contents in their Icon
series, including an essay from Terence Pitts, the director of The Center for Photography in Arizona, but in a much smaller size. For those interested, its advisable to track down the larger collection.
Weston’s early work, drastically different from his most famous photos, consists of theatrically lit, dreamy portraits in soft focus. The 1920’s, the decade that birthed Dada and Freud’s The Ego and The Id produced photographic work that was supremely cerebral. Weston’s work in the early 1920’s is no exception to this trend, ghostly figures position themselves at odd angles obscured by misty focus or stark shadows.
As Weston progressed into the decade the trademarks of his style began to emerge. Soft focus is turned to its extreme opposite, exchanging obscurity with hyper-real texture. Weston’s subject matter turns from dreamy to real. Weston’s genius begins to fully form in his late 1920’s work. Photos such as Shells
manage to turn ordinary objects into new, surreal artifacts from another world using elegant compositions with complex, organic lines.
Weston continued to refine his artistic vision in the 1930’s. Using natural subjects, such as vegetable and scraps of wood Weston highlight’s the beauty of the natural world, ever present if one cared to pay attention. 1930 saw Weston produce one of his iconic photographs Pepper No. 30
, a sensuous, even erotic photo of a pepper, its halves seeming to embrace one another. Another photo Cypress Root and Succulents. Point Lobos
transforms wood grain and desert plants into an energetic, painterly composition that starkly resembles van Gogh’s Starry Night
Oddly Edward Weston 1886-1958’s scope doesn’t stretch in the later years of Weston’s life, its contents end in 1944. Weston’s later years are the only oversight in this amazing collection.