Edward Weston (1886–1958) belongs to the figureheads of photography. Together with Alfred Stieglitz, Charles Sheeler, Paul Strand and Walker Evans he created the basis of American Modernism. In photography, this Modernism aims to “present” the world; that is, to no longer interpret it, romanticise it or burden it with symbolism – as was the intention in so-called pictoralism – but rather to see the thing, the object, directly and unembellished.
For the portraits, torsos, shells, paprikas, trees, cliffs and landscapes which Weston photographed, it was therefore vital that they were taken with greatest objectivity – a sort of “form follows function” – and with the greatest respect – a form of identification with nature. The desire to present the “quintessence of things”, as Weston put it, is hardly possible, however, without a little bit of transfiguration, no matter how objective the starting point. The simple object suddenly becomes a symbol of all living beings, and binds itself to the other objects to become a universal rhythm, the “secret of life”. Europe presented itself in painting, North America in photography. Those who wish to understand an important part of the American soul can do so in Edward Weston’s photography. Walt Whitman, the great American poet, plays here the role of a spiritual father.
The exhibition was curated by Gilles Mora, Pierre Bonhomme, Theodore Stebbins and Karen Quinn. Realisation in Winterthur: Urs Stahel. A collaboration with the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Mission du Patrimoine photographique, Paris.