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  1. #31

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    Brett was much more concerned with the interplay of pure form and the use of shadow values as "negative space" to balance his compositions. His father never used darker values in such a dramatic way and for Adams the very deepest blacks were almost a sin. I think maybe his darker printing in later years may have been a response to Edward's last years of work at Pt. Lobos.
    The elder Weston could make it work briliantly because he used subject matter that fit with more shadow. Adams simply muddied up work that was never meant be printed so dark.

    Adams was always concerned with the detail that the print would show. Exacting representation of values was the core of his methods. For Brett, the detail of the subject was secondary to the interplay of detailed highlights to the darkest, sometimes empty black values. Brett's prints have a multiple layer of understanding. First the eye catches the tonalilty of the print, then the composition which is based on major contrast of areas and finally the detail in the highlights and mid-values.

    Another of my favorite prints I have seen by Brett is "Mendenhall Glacier, Alaska, 1973". Incredible detail in the highlights of the glacier with beautiful local contrast and razor sharp, (was he using point source enlarging at this time?), with inky black shadows on some of the cliff faces and the lake. The print is a lesson in classical composition.

    Brett and Edward both evolved and changed their approach and expanded their vision ove the years. Adams always seemed to produce the same style of work. I mean how many ways can you photograph Half Dome? But as I study the history of photography I am beginning to think that Ansel was a victim of his own success. He was put on a pedestal by the fledgling environmental movement and became a sort of star for the movement. His images became the symbol of a pristine world, unspoiled by man. If you do a certain kind of work that pays the bills and brings fame, you probably keep with it. One can only wonder what direction his work might have taken with a little less fame and fortune.
    "Fundamentally I think we need to rediscover a non-ironic world"
    Robert Adams

  2. #32
    James Bleifus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Chinn
    Brett and Edward both evolved and changed their approach and expanded their vision ove the years. Adams always seemed to produce the same style of work.
    Jim, I agree. Years ago when I read Adams' autobiography I was surprised to find his admission that he was "vaguely" aware that he had been copying himself for years. So I think you're right, success may have been a trap for him, typecasting him in a sense. Conversely, I recently bought a copy of Edward Weston: Leaves of Grass and love how different the images are to the Weston work that I'm familiar with. Also, the images in Edward Weston : The Last Years in Carmel show a marked difference, both in print and content, from the Weston we see half a decade earlier.

    Cheers,

    James

  3. #33

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    I don't understand this "let's knock Ansel Adams" attitude. Perhaps you have only seen his work in books. In the originals, his prints have a strength and brilliance which matches the beauty of the compositions. It is true that his vision and artistry peaked in his 40s and 50s, but his craft continued to improve. I far prefer the majesty of his late Moonrise to the earlier, more sedate renderings. And much as I admire the mid-life work of Edward Weston from Mexico and Carmel, I think that from the mid-1930s his attempts at landscape photography were pretty feeble, especially when compared to Adams' work of the same and later periods. As for Brett's lifetime of abstractions -- see one and you've seen 'em all!

  4. #34

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    Bill, I am not knocking Adams skill, knowledge and talent. his influence is felt by anyone who has taken up photography as a profession or hobby. The problem is that 99% of the people who know his work know of it through books, magazine articles, and posters. Even the majority of prints shown in exhibitions and collections are of his grand lanscape images. He demonstrated that he could produce great work in a variety of styles in his Portfolios. Yet it seems that he never persued anything with any real energy besides his signature style. Is he one of the greates photographers of the 20th century? Probably one of the top 10. Is he a great 20th century artist such as the Westons, Siskind, Strand or E. Smith? I don't thnk so.

    But one could make the argument that Adams signature work fits in nicely with the great landscape painters of the 18th and 19th century. His work takes such landscapes and brings them to life on a scale only a LF camera could.

    But it seems ironic to me that Adams is recognized for work that is influenced by the 18th and 19th century European landscape masters more than his efforts to divorce modern photography from pictorialism and help define the language of 20th century photography.
    "Fundamentally I think we need to rediscover a non-ironic world"
    Robert Adams

  5. #35
    James Bleifus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Mitchell
    I don't understand this "let's knock Ansel Adams" attitude. Perhaps you have only seen his work in books. In the originals, his prints have a strength and brilliance which matches the beauty of the compositions.
    No, I've seen his original prints. As I've said in other posts, I'm not an Adams basher. Although I feel he's a great photographer I don't feel that he's the greatest photographer. And I don't feel that saying that makes me a basher. Part of the issue is personal taste. You say you prefer his later prints, I far prefer his earlier, softer prints.


    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Mitchell
    It is true that his vision and artistry peaked in his 40s and 50s, but his craft continued to improve.
    Yes, Adams' craft improved but, by his own admission, his artistic vision stagnated. And that's very unfortunate. I feel that the Weston's art AND craft continued to improve throughout there lives. I know that Szarkowski feels that Adams had a good twenty year run of making great images and he's right. But imagine the images that Adams could have made if he were able to keep going. There's a lesson there for all of us photographers.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Mitchell
    And much as I admire the mid-life work of Edward Weston from Mexico and Carmel, I think that from the mid-1930s his attempts at landscape photography were pretty feeble, especially when compared to Adams' work of the same and later periods. As for Brett's lifetime of abstractions -- see one and you've seen 'em all!
    We'll have to agree to disagree here. Some of BW's work doesn't speak to me while other pieces speak very loudly and I feel that they are more diverse than you're acknowledging. Regardless, there's certainly a progression rather than stasis in his work. And I'm fond of EW's early work, including pieces that exhibit his pictorialist roots.

    Cheers,

    James

  6. #36

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    Brett Weston's work is more varied than many of you realize. In 1975 I spent quite a bit of time with him and looked through every photograph he had ever made. Brett told me that the only others who had done that were Beaumont and Nancy Newhall when they were putting together Voyage of the Eye and Paul Caponigro. Although relatively close-up abstraction (at least for his late work) is how Brett is thought of, he did so much more. To show this, Lodima Press (my publishing company) will be publishing a 19-volume series of Brett's photographs--one book for each of the portfolios he made. Full details can be seen at www.lodimapress.com. The books will be reproduced in 600-line screen quadtone and will be virtual facsimilies of his prints. The books will be extremely reasonable priced, starting at $29.95 for subscribers to the series. The first book, due out in a couple of months is San Francisco, his first portfolio, and is a very little known aspect of his work.

    What most people don't realize is that Brett was really a contemporary of his father, if you consider that the Modernist work Edward is known for really begins in the mid-1920s. As such, Brett is really more of a pioneer than is usually thought. Many years ago I looked at the entire MOMA holdings of Adams, Edward Weston, and Brett. Brett made the most beautiful prints of all of them, although late in his career, when he made enlargements, his printing was erratic at times.

  7. #37

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    Michael, I hope you are going to publish his work chronologically. The "50 Years" book which started this thread had only one image from before WW2, and the "Master Photographer" book doesn't seem to be available anywhere that I can see it. "Voyage" is quite disappointing in the reproduction.

  8. #38

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    Looking forward to receiving Lodima's 1st volume of the Brett Weston series, as well as the ensueing volumes. I've admired Brett Weston's work, but have never seen any of his prints in-person. Given Lodima's reputation for high quality printing, the portfolio series should be a good substitute.
    van Huyck Photo
    "Progress is only a direction, and it's often the wrong direction"

  9. #39

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    Yes, Bill, we will be publishing the Brett Weston Portfolio Series in chronological order. But the only one from before WWII is San Francisco. The photographs in the next portfolio, White Sands, were made immediately after the war, but in the one after that, New York, some were made during the war when Brett was stationed in New York. He was in a photo section and could whip out the required work in a few hours. His boss was Arthur Rothstein.

    Thanks, Doug. I think you will be right pleased. Here at Lodima Press, we're fanatic about reproduction quality, in the same way we're fanatic about print quality in our prints--though, of course, vision always comes first. The photographs in the portfolio series will be reproduced full size (except for the 11x14s) and where there is text it will be reproduced in facsimile to try to recreate as much as possible the feeling of the portfolios themselves.

  10. #40

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    Years ago I saw a B. Weston exhibit at SF MOMA, and there were some early small prints. One was a portrait of Stravinsky, I think. Amazing - but the style was already there. He might have been in his early twenties, and the bold, abstract sense was present all along - even in one of the very first photographs he ever made at age 12! I think Brett was much more aligned with, and influenced by, artists like Paul Klee, Brancusi, and Henry Moore than by any other photographers - even his dad. He seemed to prefer talking about these non-photographic artists more than about the usual "shop talk" of the photographers of his day. Had very little patience as I recall with methodology and endless discussions about print color, etc.
    Michael, you are one lucky fellow to have seen all that work! I had an appointment arranged for me by John Woods to go visit Brett in October of 1989. Unfortunately, the big quake hit then, and the roads were impassable. I never followed up, and regret it to this day. Regardless of what any detractors might say, I think Brett was one of the greatest, and possibly the most prolific, of 20th century photographers.
    I am told that when lying in hospital in Hawaii, shortly before he died, someone brought in a plant as a gift, and upon seeing it he said "Get me my camera!" Truly a man born to do his art.

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