Born in 1886 in a suburb of Chicago, Edward Weston moved to Southern California at the age of twenty. After opening his own photography studio in Glendale in 1911, he began associating with a cosmopolitan group of people who were arriving in the Los Angeles area from all parts of the globe. Although Weston was neither well-traveled nor formally educated, his new friends — many of them artists, dancers,actors, and writers hoping to find work in the nascent movie industry — shared with him their more worldly experiences and attitudes, and in this way Weston became conversant with the latest artistic and literary movements in Europe and Asia.
In July 1923, he abandoned his first wife, Flora, along with his Pictorialist sensibilities and went to Mexico. There he spent the next few years with his lover, the writer and photographer Tina Modotti. As one historian put it, Mexico was “Weston’s Paris.” There he honed his modernist style, working toward greater simplification and abstraction through heroic portrait heads and nudes, as well as more mundane objects such as toys, toilets, and tree trunks.
Back in California late in 1926, Weston embarked on an extraordinary breadth of work that would occupy him for over two decades and place him at the center of American modernism. While Weston had been away, the number of galleries, promoters, and patrons of Modernist works in California had grown. Through the late 1920s and early 1930s, spurred by his earlier contact with the work of Georgia O’Keeffe, Rivera, and Brancusi, and later with West Coast artists Henrietta Shore and Imogen Cunningham, Weston continued the exploration of abstraction which culminated in his classic, high modernist images of sculptural shells,
In 1939, he married his assistant, Charis Wilson, with whom he had lived since 1934. They divorced in 1945. During this time he received exclusive commissions and published several books, some with Wilson, including an edition of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass illustrated with his photographs.
Pepper Nº 30, 1930
Charis Wilson, 1936