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The Eloquent Silence: Edward Weston Photography

Photography can capture many things, but can it depict silence?

This question is to be answered in the following article. But first, let’s
get acquainted with its the main character.

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Edward Weston is a legend of American photography. He stood at the dawn
of the photographic art; through his personal evolution alongside with the
general recognition of the photography as an art form, Weston established the
new meaning of the term.

He started as a fan of Pictorialism that was popular at those times. The style of the pictorial photos usually
includes soft focus and requires some manipulations performed on the pictures,
thus the photographer “creating” the photo instead of just “taking” it. 

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Weston received
wide recognition for his pictorial works, but he didn’t stop at that point and
kept exploring the capacities of photography. In 1913, he met his muse, Margrethe Mather, from whom he took many
interests and visual inspirations and acknowledged her as one of the most
important people in his life.  

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Weston’s  trip to his sister in Middletown,
Ohio, had significantly changed his style and vision. He took some photos of
the smoke stack over the steel mill and these sharp images were quite the
opposite of his regular soft-focused ones. It was the transition period for the
photographer. “The Middletown visit was something to remember…most of all
in importance was my photographing of ‘Armco’…That day I made great
photographs, even Stieglitz thought they were important!” wrote Weston in his
notes. Alfred Stieglitz was one of the most influential photographers at that
time, and he indeed liked Weston’s works. They met in New York and Stieglitz
was fond of our main character’s oeuvre.

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In order to get closer
to the essence of Edward Weston’s works, we need to notice that he was an
explorer in many ways. He had a family, he had lovers, he had muses and friends;
he travelled, he stayed at home, he was wealthy, he strived for money, he was a
father and a mentor. He was studying the world with his camera eye. That is the
highlight of his oeuvre. “I see no reason for recording the obvious” this is
also one of his most important principles. 

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We do not just see “something” on his photos, he makes us study it. We study
the beauty of a woman’s body and the beauty of a pepper, or the porcelain
bathroom fixtures, or any other thing that is depicted on Weston’s images. And
we found ourselves amused: pepper is not looking like pepper anymore,
human figure resembles still objects; Edward Weston photography has its own
voice, yet his photographs are silent.  

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His oeuvre had proven that the eye of a camera can show not things, but
the idea of them, the unique vision that has little to do with just depiction
of the reality. This is a crucial point for photography that is needed to be
understood. Thus, photography begins when “…to photograph a rock, have it look
like a rock, but be more than a rock” – and that’s where the talent shows, that’s
where Edward Weston begins.

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