Edward Weston's Daybooks, what's missing?

Discussion in 'Book, Magazine, Gallery Reviews, Shows & Contests' started by Bill Mitchell, Jul 6, 2006.

  1. Bill Mitchell

    Bill Mitchell Member

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    At the top of any list of photographic writing, I would put Edward Weston's Daybooks. Although they can be enjoyed on the surface level (which is how I first read them), the problem is that (like Alice in Wonderland) there is so much going on between the lines that an annotated version is needed. For example, it wasn't until I recently read a biography of Tina Modotti that it became clear that by the time he left Mexico for the first time they were no longer lovers, and he left in frustration because he wasn't getting any. It certainly puts a whole new perspective on his second sojourn there, when they were housemates but not bedmates.
    There are several biographies of Tina (a remarkable woman, indeed, and much to my surprise Weston was almost a minor diversion), while Charis Wilson Weston's excellent autobiography essentially picks up where the Daybooks left off. but there's not a single good biography of Weston himself.
     
  2. mtbbrian

    mtbbrian Member

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    The thing I didn't like about EW's Daybooks, was the letter references to all the women that came and went in his life.
    M, C, etc..
    I realize he was trying to be private and all that, but he could of at least first the first name.
    Minor thing, I know.
    I did enjoy reading them.
    Brian
     
  3. Joe Lipka

    Joe Lipka Member

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    I think Ben Maddow had a biography that hashed out EW's myriad affairs, to the extent that photography came in second place...
     
  4. Bill Hahn

    Bill Hahn Member

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    FYI, Robert Adams panned Maddow's Weston biography in his "Why People Photograph"....having read the bad review, I proceeded to buy the Maddow biography and read it anyway. I would agree with Joe's characterization....
     
  5. John Koehrer

    John Koehrer Subscriber

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    Not only did R. Adams not agree with Maddow's interpretation, It was this bio that egged on Charis Wilson to write her book(Through another lens)
     
  6. david b

    david b Member

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    In the beginning of the daybooks, it mentions that he took a razor and a thick black marker to some of the names and his thoughts about those people.

    I heard some rather "racey" speculation as to what he cut out and feel like we missed out on whom the man really was.
     
  7. ann

    ann Subscriber

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    i think one must put some perspective to all this. When those journals were kept, it was not the day of tell all, and to tell all with every detail in "glowing color" so to speak.
     
  8. Bill Mitchell

    Bill Mitchell Member

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    Well, he's been in that great darkroom in the sky for over 50 years, and his first wife and all his sons are gone. It's past time to update the bio.
     
  9. ann

    ann Subscriber

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    perhapes, but you might want to check with the grandchildren; starting with Kim Weston.
     
  10. Bill Mitchell

    Bill Mitchell Member

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    Ann, quite a few of those cryptic name/letter in the Mexican volume can be filled in by reading the latest (Albers?) biography of Tina. (Almost all my books are in boxes right now, and I'm going CRAZY.)
    I think that Weston didn't censor the books to protect himself (he even was pretty frank about his homosexual affair with Ramiel McGee), but to avoid embarrassment to his partners.
     
  11. ann

    ann Subscriber

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    i agree, he was trying to avoid naming names. I understand you would like to fill in the blanks, i am just suggesting that the day books are about so m uch more than the women.
     
  12. Bill Mitchell

    Bill Mitchell Member

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    Oh, I 100% agree. I was really just responding to the comment about the cryptic first letters.
    With at least two biographies of such great but second tier photographers as Evans, Arbus, Bourke-White and many others, it's a shame that there's not a really good one of Weston, Strand, or Cartier-Bresson. (Lord knows how many there are of Steiglitz, Stiechen, and Adams).
     
  13. jp80874

    jp80874 Subscriber

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    I am reading the Day Books now, about 1/3 through. Edward mentions that Brett as a late teen ager started writing a day book. I haven't seen mention of that elsewhere. Can anyone add any information to that?

    John Powers
     
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  15. Sportera

    Sportera Member

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    I had every Weston book I could afford. To get the complete picture of EW I recomend reading the book by Charis, "Through another lens" . The Tina Modotti Biography was not my cup of tea and to honest I never finished it, could not get used to the authors style. "Through another lens" provides info on EW's day to day life, and their relationship and ultimate break up.
     
  16. Charles Webb

    Charles Webb Member

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    Sam,
    I agree totally with what you said. I have been buying what I could afford for years, but I like Charis's. I also have not finished reading The Tina Modotti
    bio. Definitely not my cup of tea either.

    Charlie........................

    Would love to have the big Weston book, but alas it is beyond my means!
     
  17. Bill Mitchell

    Bill Mitchell Member

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    Hi Charles. The pictures are too small to enjoy in the big one, and there's insufficient captioning information. There are several others, but none of them seem to be very complete. Perhaps the second edition of the Maddow is the best compromise (unfortunately, I have the first edition), the Tashin is good, and while Lodima's has excellent reproductions the source of their pictures is limited to a single private collection. Learning about Weston seems a little like the old joke about the blind men describing an elephant.
     
  18. André E.C.

    André E.C. Member

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    I`ll stick with his images!
    I pass the ladies, gay affairs, depressions and so on. :smile:

    Hmmmmm, good time to put my eyes on " ...a legacy" once again. :wink:

    Cheers

    André
     
  19. Charles Webb

    Charles Webb Member

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    Bill,
    I don't have either of the Maddow editions, so haven't read them. I guess I am much like Andre, I would like to know lots more about the images and how they were created, but will definitely by pass on a play by play account of E W's life style.


    Charlie...............................................
     
  20. PhotoHistorian

    PhotoHistorian Member

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    The best resource on Edward Weston is the "Big Book" as you call it. For those not familiar, the title is, "Edward Weston: Photographs from the Collection of the Center For Creative Photography," by Dr. Amy Conger. In addition to the thumbnail images of all the print holding in the center, Dr. Conger also wrote a very good biography, although not book-length by any measure. Plus with each image thumbnail Dr. Conger documents important facts about the photograph and how it relates to Edward's life.
    Another excellent book is "Edward Weston: Forms of Passion." It has an excellent biography section of each period of Edward's career, and a critical analysis of his work. Included in the book are 320 duotone images from all periods of Edward's creative life. For many this might be the best book to own.
    As someone who has read every book in print on Edward; studied under Cole Weston for several years to learned first-hand about his father; and having done original research with the Weston archive at the Center For Creative Photography, no one book or resource tells it all. The Edward Weston I have come to know evolved over several decades of study. I have come to appreciate more than the photographer. I have come to appreciate the man. He was an American original in every sense of the word. He lived a life few of us can fathom. And the man I have come to know, would have been a great man even if he never picked up a camera.
    To answer a few other questions listed in this thread, Brett kept a Daybook for a very shot time in Mexico. Once he was introduced to the camera and photography he was a visual thinker and wrote very little. Even in the books he published of his work during his lifetime, Brett let the images tell the story, not words.
    Charis' book on Edward, although a good one, and one I enjoyed immensely, only reflects on the period of his life they were together. So one doesn't get a complete picture of the man. Charis' book omits completely three important periods of his career. His world renowned work in pictorialism; his work in Mexico; and his post-Mexico period that yielded some of his strongest work: nudes, shells and vegetables. It is my observation that Edward could have quit photography in 1920, 1927 or 1930 and would still have been a giant in the history of photography.
    And as for 50 years having passed since Edward's death, it is not too late for a biography to be written. The resources and information on Edward at the CCP have barely been tapped. The correspondence alone could yield untold stories and a new look at the life and work of this man. Plus with time comes perspective. I hope someone takes up the challenge.
     
  21. jp80874

    jp80874 Subscriber

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    Thank you PhotoHistorian for those details.
    Unfortunately as the cliché goes, if you have to ask, you probably can’t afford it.

    Edward Weston: Photographs from the Collection of the Center For Creative Photography," by Dr. Amy Conger
    Amazon used $1,899.00
    eBay Buy it now $1495
    http://cgi.ebay.com/Edward-Weston-P...ryZ29223QQssPageNameZWD1VQQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem

    Thankfully I have the "Edward Weston: Forms of Passion". It was on display at the Dayton Art Institute's Weston show two years ago as a book they suggested.

    John Powers
     
  22. Jim Jones

    Jim Jones Subscriber

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    My early edition of the Ben Maddow book was OK until many later books by less biased authors were published. Don't overlook California and the West by Edward and Charis Weston for an account of a brief period in their lives. The books on Margrethe Mather fill in a few details on EW. As for Weston deleting some identifying information on his lovers, it was the right thing to do. Anyhow, by now any who have survived are rather old to interest even a fossil like me.
     
  23. jp80874

    jp80874 Subscriber

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    What motivates the Center For Creative Photography? Would multiple letters from people like us stir an interest to do a second printing of the book?

    John Powers
     
  24. PhotoHistorian

    PhotoHistorian Member

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    John,
    I didn't realize the CCP Weston book had risen to an astronomical price. Just a year or so ago, I saw a copy on Ebay at $200. Still expensive, but at least closer to the original price.
    I was lucky and found my copy at the Museum of Modern Art in the late 90's to add to my EW collection. They wanted $75.00 for it, which I believe was the original price. The only damage was to the jacket, so I felt it was still a good bargain. Now it appears it was a great bargain.
    I am not sure what the motivation, as far as publishing, is at the Center For Creative Photography. I have a few contacts there and will try and find an answer. If anyone has any direct questions about Edward please feel free to contact me direct with them via email.

    Walker Edmonson
     
  25. Bill Mitchell

    Bill Mitchell Member

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    The book isn't all that great because the images are so small. What is really needed is not a new printing, but a CD or DVD version.
     
  26. PhotoHistorian

    PhotoHistorian Member

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    Bill,
    The book is an EXCELLENT resource if you are interested in learning about Edward Weston. The book's value is in the excellent biography by Amy Conger as well as all the annotations she researched for the images. The thumbnails are there as a reference not as study prints.
    If you want to study just the images, there are many other Edward Weston books for that purpose.
    Anyone doing research on Edward Weston has to have the CCP book in their collection.
    The CD and DVD will not be neccesaary in the near future. The Center For Creative Photography is scanning all the Weston images and will have them online for study at some point.

    Walker Edmonson