Thursday, 23 September 2010

London - 22nd September - Edward Weston

Having missed seeing the Edwin Smith prints at Chris Beetles gallery I was determined not to miss the Edward Weston exhibition, so having 1 day left of my September break I decided to have a day in London, see some old friends and buy one or two final components for my 5x4 equipment.

London (well Mayfair) doesn't start very early, but I do so I always find myself sitting around in cafes eating bacon butties and drinking coffee. This time was not wasted. I needed to consider how I was going to react to the prospect of being inches away from prints made by Cole Weston using original Edward Weston negatives. I knew some of the prints would be familiar as  I had just completed reading "Edward Weston - His Life" a biography by Ben Maddow, that included some of the famous images and I also have  "Edward Weston - The last years in Carmel", a beautiful book of Weston photographs published by The Art Institute of Chicago. During the reading of the biography I had initially not understood Weston at all. His work as a professional photographer seemed predictable (portraits of wealthy ladies, dogs, children etc) and his early personal work left me cold.

Once inside (its ring the bell to be let in) and handed a list of the work on display I was left alone in complete silence with 37 pieces of photography. I have never experienced such emotion as when walking up to Number 4 "Shell 1927". It wasn't happiness or sorrow, the types of emotion we come used to over a lifetime of ups and downs, but one of connecting with the image and the photographer. I remembered the Weston day book entries from around that time when he first discovered Shells and the later technical entries of f256 and four and a half hours exposure. His determination to achieve technical perfection and the rejected negatives due to unplanned movement. It was possible for the hour or so I spent there to be affected by them, to recall the different women in his life while in Mexico or especially the later years in Carmel. As photographers, we all know the time we spend before and after an exposure, the bit nobody will ever see and it was that that intrigued me with these images. Through the biography I had become close to him, his day books and his letters are detailed and explicit and being close to the photographs the words and the images came together and I felt much closer to him, as a photographer.

I didn't spend any time reviewing the images, either technically or artistically. I will do that later when the catalogue is delivered and I can detach myself from the experience. I spent the time filling in gaps, asking myself questions about how he felt when the exposures were made and a little sad, knowing that the onset of Parkinson's disease was making it difficult for him to actually operate the camera.

Feeling inspired, next to Aperture (never bought anything there but its an Aladdin's Cave), RG Lewis to say hello to Len (No sale yet then of M9's) and then to Teamwork for dark slides and a loupe.

My photography has recently been taking a back seat for various reasons and I didn't really (if I am honest) have the time for a day in London, but having made the effort to be with the Weston photographs I feel  refreshed and able to think more about the future and my OCA work.


  1. You make me regret missing the exhibition. It sounds wonderful. I look forward to seeing your analysis of the works when you get the catalogue. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Your description of how you felt emotionally seeing this exhibition really struck a nerve with me as it reminded me so strongly of the way I felt myself when I was lucky enough in Paris a few years ago to be able to visit a major exhibition of Steichen's photography. I felt I wanted to cry but it wasn't through feeling sad or happy....a very odd, new and unsettling feeling at the age of 50.

  3. I know what you mean Ian about that special feeling. I felt I was so close to Weston during that hour or so.