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Edward Weston, one of the true heavyweights in the history of American photography, celebrated his 126th birthday yesterday, where ever he is.

I have always admired Weston’s work and I think I can point to some heavy influences that he’s had on my own creative output. I like his carefully composed landscapes, his selection as subjects such everyday objects as toilets and green peppers, and his commitment to the craft of photography. In my humble opinion, he was a far better photographic artist than his far-more-famous friend and contemporary Ansel Adams, a statement that could earn me a beating if uttered in the wrong company but I’m sticking to it.

White Dunes, Oceana, California (Edward Weston, 1936)

No matter what subject Weston turned his attention to, nudes or portraits or landscapes or still lifes,  his approach was meticulous and precise. He was masterful at isolating fragments of a scene or single objects in ways that expanded their meaning. Weston also has a consciousness of texture and geometry that helped a lot of his images “work.”

I’m still not terribly sure what I think about Weston as a human being or what his photography tells me about his personality. Like Adams, he was a member of a group of photographers known as Group F/64, a group that thought it had photography all figured out and that all other photographers were poseurs (although it was Adams who fought the battle publicly in the photography press). He was an arrogant womanizer who abandoned a series of wives/girlfriends as he moved on to greener pastures. He was supremely confident of his own enormous talents. Maybe I wouldn’t want to hang out with the guy, but his single-minded dedication to self may have been the cornerstone to his accomplishments for all I know.

Artichoke Halved (Edward Weston, 1930

Edward Weston spent the last decade of his life in declining health due to Parkinson’s disease, preparing his photographic legacy for posterity with the help of his sons Cole and Brett. Weston still contributes to the development of the art of photography today, through his own work and that of his children and grandchildren (the latter being still active as we speak). Photographers who don’t study his work are missing some important lessons.

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