VISIT TO EDWARD WESTON’s WILDCAT HILL “sanctuary”

Edward Weston

Edward Weston on a photograph by his son Brett.

Edward Weston (24/03/1886 – 1/01/1958), was a renowned American photographer, considered one of the most influential of the 20th century. He dedicated part of his career as a portraitist, but what made him really known was the development of a realistic, personal style, with great definition, using an 8×10″ camera with very closed diaphragms to increase the depth of field and contact printed photographs on subjects like the natural landscape, the nude or the more curious forms of vegetables.

This style of direct photography was opposed to pictorialism, the style in vogue at the time. Together with the photographers Paul Strand, Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham and Willard Van Dyke, among others, founded Group f/64, which favoured a sharp straight photography.

From his marriage with Flora May Chandler, were born four childrens, Chandler (1910), Brett (1911), Neil (1916), and Cole (1919). After meeting Tina Modotti in 1921, he abandoned the family’s safety and they both moved to Mexico, where they lived between 1923 and 1925, becoming lovers. In 1927 he returned to California and settled in Wildcat Hill, a nature gifted area between Big Sur and Carmel by the Sea. Charis Wilson became her companion and muse between 1934 and 1945, when they divorced.

He made his latest photographs at Point Lobos, a few hundred yards from his home on Wildcat Hill, when he was already affected by Parkinson’s disease.

Edward Weston’s original darkroom on Wildcat Hill. Contact sheet press and the negative touch-up stand are seen.

THE VISIT

Surfing the net and by chance, I landed on the Edward Weston Photography page. I realized with surprise that the place where Edward Weston lived during a very important part of his life, Wildcat Hill, kept the objects, furniture and original darkroom where developed his photographs. My hands began trembling and my words to babble when further I knew the place could be visited for free.

I arranged a visit with Edward Weston’s grandson, Kim Weston through his wife Gina. Both live in such a special place and it was very pleasant to meet them. The place is charming and very welcoming because of the size of the various rooms and the warmth provided by the wood throughout the house. Built by Edward’s son, Neil, it is a simple house, nothing ostentatious, artistically decorated where history is breathed on all four sides.

Kim Weston was very affable and open with us, allowing us to take pictures of such a special place (but also a private one, since they live in it), which we thank them deeply. He asked us if we knew anything about their history and he was happy that we answered affirmatively. We walked through the rooms, stopping every two steps, for the large number of high-value photographs hung on the walls or the personal objects of Edward himself. “Here is my father, Cole, along with his brothers and grandfathers Edward and Flora“, “This was woodcarved by Brett, inspired by that photograph“, “Here is a photograph of my grandfather made by Ansel Adams, not far from here “, etc …, he was telling us the story of everything that went through our retina.

Kim is in favor of chemical photography, but respects any other type of tool (digital or not) to come up with a given result. In order to create some controversy, I invited him to review a small portfolio I was carriying under my arm from my work in giclée, printed on glossy, baryta paper. This particular paper looks very much alike his own silver prints or what might be an Ilford Multigrade silver gelatine, glossy paper, air-dried. After a while reviewing, he asked me if it was digital what he was viewing. I told him the prints were giclée printed but I pointed out that they were very much alike as could be an Ilford, silver gelatine paper and he agreed. I also indicated that among those photographs, which were similar in style and technique, the “originals” came from as many sources as digital captures, 35mm film, 6x7cm film, 4×5 inch film and 8×10 inch film. It was almost impossible to tell which was which, though, since the prints were small size 8×10 inch and showed a similar tonal range and acutance. I like to propose these situations, to try to demonstrate that, what really matters in a photographic work of art, is the final fine print, being of minor importance the tool used to accomplish this end.

At the end of the journey, he invited us to sign the guest book. It was an honor to share and make such a simple gesture with characters such as Dorothea Lange, Beaumont Newhall, Ansel Adams, John Sexton, Graham Nash or Dennis Hopper among others.

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Kim reviewing some of my photographs printed on giclée.

Kim show us his grandfather darkroom, proudly.

…a relaxed conversation…

Photograph of Imogen Cunningham and Ansel Adams.

Chemical formulas written by Edward Weston.

…a relaxed conversation…

Kim show us his grandfather darkroom, proudly.

Kim show us a photograph fo his father Cole along their uncles and grandfathers.

…a relaxed conversation…

Kim Weston with my family on Wildcat Hill.

In a moment in time where my chemical photography is more on the memory that at present, visiting such a significant place was for me, an excepcional experience.

Thank you Kim, to preserve such heritage, to share it with us and to keep it for future generations to come.

Jesús Coll, to Kim Weston

The Weston Gallery

Since we were very close to Carmel, we took the opportunity to visit one of the most characteristic photo galleries, established in 1975, the Weston Gallery.

We could review a considerable amount of work in spite of the not so wide size of the gallery. If I am not mistaken, this gallery only represented historical authors who worked on analog film and chemical print only (silver, palladium, platinum,…) but we were surprised to find some works printed in giclée named as “pigment prints”. This change of mentality, perhaps due to the photographer Cara Weston (sister of Kim), that produces its work exclusively in giclée and is co-owner of that gallery.

The photographs I personally enjoyed most were the originals (silver gelatin) by Ansel Adams, Edward & Brett Weston and the portraits of animals (giclée) by Paul Coghlin. I was also surprised by some photographs, small size (about 4×5″), which offered me no emotion at all, except the perplexity of observing its economic value, priced between 15,000.00 and 28,000.00 dollars.

Weston Gallery en Carmel by the Sea, California.

By | 2017-10-19T09:36:34+00:00 October 19th, 2017|

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