Biography | Bibliography
Henry Weston (March 24, 1886 – January 1, 1958) was a 20th-century American photographer. He has been called “one of the most innovative and influential American photographers…” and “one of the masters of 20th century photography.” Over the course of his 40-year career Weston photographed an increasingly expansive set of subjects, including landscapes, still lifes, nudes, portraits, genre scenes and even whimsical parodies. It is said that he developed a “quintessentially American, and specially Californian, approach to modern photography” because of his focus on the people and places of the American West. In 1937 Weston was the first photographer to receive a Guggenheim Fellowship, and over the next two years he produced nearly 1,400 negatives using his 8 × 10 view camera. Some of his most famous photographs were taken of the trees and rocks at Point Lobos, California, near where he lived for many years.
Weston was born in Chicago and moved to California when he was 21. He knew he wanted to be a photographer from an early age, and initially his work was typical of the soft focus pictorialism that was popular at the time. Within a few years, however, he abandoned that style and went on to be one of the foremost champions of highly detailed photographic images.
At the urging of his sister, Weston left Chicago in the spring of 1906 and moved near May’s home in Tropico, California (now a neighborhood in Glendale). He decided to stay there and pursue a career in photography, but he soon realized he needed more professional training. A year later he moved to Effingham, Illinois, in order to enroll in the Illinois School of Photography. They taught a nine-month course, but Weston finished all of the class work in six months. The school refused to give him a diploma unless he paid for the full nine months; Weston refused and instead moved back to California in the spring of 1908.
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 Weston. In 1929 they moved their studio to Carmel where Weston 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 Weston’s death in 1958, Cole fulfilled his father’s wish and continued to print his negatives.
Brett Abbott, Edward Weston’s Book of Nudes, Tucson AZ: Center for Creative Photography, 2007.
Amy Conger, Van Deren Coke, Edward Weston in Mexico, 1923-1926, Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press, 1983.
Amy Conger, Edward Weston: The Form of the Nude, New York: Phaidon Press, 2005.
Amy Conger, Edward Weston: Photographs from the Collection of the Center for Creative Photography, Tucson, AZ: Center for Creative Photography, 1992.
Susan Danly, Weston J. Naef, Edward Weston in Los Angeles, Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1987.
Susan Danly, Jonathan Spaulding, Jessica T. Smith, Jennifer Watts, Edward Weston: A Legacy, London: Merrell, 2003.
James Enyeart, Amy Stark, Sharon Alexandra, Roger Myers, The Letters from Tina Modotti to Edward Weston ( The Archive ), Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona Press, 1986.
Kathy Kelsey Foley, Edward Weston’s Gifts to His Sister, Dayton, OH: The Dayton Art Institute, 1978.
Judith Hochberg, Michael Mattis, Sarah Lowe, Dody Weston Thompson, Edward Weston: Life Work, Revere, PA: Lodima Press, 2003.
Sarah Lowe, Tina Modotti and Edward Weston: The Mexico Years, New York: Merrell Publishers, 2004.
Ben Maddow, Cole Weston, Edward Weston: His Life and Photographs, New York: Aperture, 1979.
Kurt Markus, Dune: Edward & Brett Weston, Kalispell, MT: Wild Horse Island Press, 2003.
Gilles Mora, Edward Weston: Forms of Passion, New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1995.
Beaumont Newhall, Supreme Instants: The Photography of Edward Weston, New York: New York Graphic Society, 1986.
Nancy Newhall, The Photographs of Edward Weston, New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1946.
Nancy Newhall, The Daybooks of Edward Weston, Millerton, N.Y., Aperture, 1973.
Nancy Newhall, Edward Weston: The Flame of Recognition, His photographs accompanied by excerpts from the Daybooks & Letters, New York: Aperture, 1971.
Beaumont Newhall, Amy Conger, Peter C. Bunnell, Edward Weston, Santa Barbara, CA; Salt Lake City, UT:Peregrine Smith Books, 1983.
Terence Pitts, Manfred Heiting, Edward Weston, Koln, Germany: Taschen, 1999.
Alexander Lee Nyerges, Edward Weston: A Photographer’s Love of Life, Dayton, OH: The Dayton Art Institute, 2004.
Theodore E. Stebbins, Karen E. Quinn, Leslie Furth, Edward Weston: Photography and Modernism, Boston, MA: Bulfinch Press, 1999.
David Travis, Edward Weston: The Last Years In Carmel, Chicago: Art Institute of Chicago, 2001.
Beth Gates Warren, Margrethe Mather & Edward Weston. A Passionate Collaboration, New York and London: Santa Barbara Museum of Art in Association with W.W. Norton & Company, 2001.
Charles Weston, Edward Weston Nudes, New York: Aperture, 1977.
Cole Weston, Susan Morgan, Edward Weston Photographs, New York: Aperture, 1995.
Terrence Pitts, Edward Weston; Color Photography, Tucson, AZ: Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona, 1986.
Walt Whitman, Edward Weston Leaves of Grass, New York: Paddington Press, 1942, 1970.