Published to mark the 125th year after Edward Weston’s birth, this large, lavish book reproduces a generous selection of the most important work of this wonderful and canonical photographer. Editor Steve Crist has curated Weston’s vast trove of beautiful photos down to 125 shots, and complements each shot with illuminating excerpts from Weston’s journals and letters.[ad#Google Adsense Text]
Weston shot in monochrome on a large format film camera, and here the images’ tonal range, detail, and subtlety are artfully reproduced on large (17.4″ x 14.3″) sheets of heavy stock. Arranged chronologically, the pictures show Weston’s evolution from a near Pictorialist style (i.e. hazy, glowing, painterly effects around his nudes) toward so-called ‘straight photography’ where the emphasis is more on sharply rendered, precisely lit images that showcase carefully observed lines, shapes, textures, and volumes. On display in this collection are a range of genres – nudes, studio still-lifes, landscapes, and texture studies, including his most iconic images like ‘Pepper #30,’ ‘Nude of Tina Modotti (1923),’ and ‘Arrangement of Shell & Rocks.’
Portraiture was also major genre for Weston, and in addition to capturing many of his family and various lovers over the years, he also shot some of the artistic luminaries with whom he was friendly. Vivid shots of Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Ansel Adams (holding not a large format camera but a Contax rangefinder!), and Imogen Cunningham are full of personality but never at the expense of careful and rigorous form.
Those who want to familiarize themselves with the artist will find attractive and more affordable Weston collections (I’d recommend taking a look at In Focus: Edward Weston and Edward Weston’s Book of Nudes) that offer opportunities to explore his massive achievements. But for well-heeled fans of a true photographic master, this beautifully printed limited edition should have an exalted place on the coffee table.
The collection calls attention to the way Weston pulled off a sort of photographic hat trick: he created artistic and highly evocative images that also manage a near scientific recording of what was in front of the lens. Even while revealing their actual form, he framed and lit his subjects so that their sensuous beauty is dreamily reminiscent of multiple other pleasing shapes – torsos resemble sculptures, peppers seem like human bodies in motion, desert hills and even cabbage leaves conjure the voluptuous curves of a woman.
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