Edward Weston’s highly detailed, intimate portraits of semi-abstract nudes, landscapes and organic forms established his reputation as one of the foremost Modernist photographers in America. A founder member of Group f/64 alongside Ansel Adams and Imogen Cunningham, Weston’s preoccupation was the presentation of objective texture, rhythm and form in nature. Weston’s urge to render “the very substance and quintessence of the thing itself, whether it be polished steel or palpitating flesh” can be considered as the beginning of a tradition of West Coast artists interested in psychological implications of surface texture continuing through to the work of Ed Ruscha and the Pop artists.
Weston would state his aim as “to clearly express my feeling for life with photographic beauty, present objectively the texture, rhythm, form in nature, without subterfuge or evasion in technique or spirit, to record the quintessence of the object or element before my lens, rather than an interpretation, a superficial phase, or passing mood”. For Weston, the camera could distil the subject to an elemental pureness, stripping away any painterly pretence.
Weston became the first photographer to receive a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1936. In 1946 the Museum of Modern Art, New York staged a major retrospective of Weston’s work, cementing his reputation as not only one of the most important photographers of the twentieth century, but also as one of the most important artists.