I can almost feel the breath of Edward Weston,
as if we are both leaning over his wet print in the final tray of fixer.
We are in his darkroom. Then he turns over the wet print and
we both gasp.
The contrast between the black soil and the white tomato plants across that expansive rising hill is dramatic,
No wonder our breath exclaims surprise and delight.
In the early 20th century prints are made directly from the negative.
They are the same size as the negative; 6 x 12, 8 x 14.
So many negatives are awful, littering the floor for years.
10,000 I like to say.
Until something changes inside Weston,
and he wakes up one of the finest fine art photographers.
I thought I was “somethun,’” when I was ordained. All that seminary training.
It didn’t “stick,” it didn’t matter until after 10 years.
That was when something moved a mile in my sleep.
I woke up, a priest.
On the far side of 10,000 clicks of the shutter
and 10,000 deletes,
one morning along a stream at dawn,
I am the stream.
Together, we flow to the sea.
Everyone in that small Weston gallery is 12 inches from the prints of Edward Weston, so close we are not aware of anyone else in the room.
We are leaning with Weston over the wet trays of prints in the darkroom.
so close and personal
our breath can seem like one breath.
Weston’s presence is there,
in each creation, and
we can only gaze by coming close, 12 inches away.
Weston’s negatives could be 6 by 12 inches, and so were his prints. The negative is not a technical achievement of perfection after all those duds are tossed.
He is now on the far side of technique.
The print is not created from a cookbook of recipes,
water temperatures or chemical formulas.
but there is also that other day.
He is now well beyond what any cookbook could teach him.
he knows what he is searching for…
his own voice.
What he learns in that moment is what he felt, seconds before the book goes flying.
Those seconds hold a hard truth; one word: stop.
You are no longer expressing your own voice
Walk out. Walk until you find again,
your own voice.
Follow wherever it leads.
Do not look back.
All you’ll see is an ocean wake,
a receding wave.
Wall art? Forget it.
Weston’s work is held in our lap,
then we raise the tomato hill
12 inches close,
And we marvel at the beauty of the Earth.
We see something more we had missed in all those other times we gazed on his work.
No, this is nothing like documentary photography.
Edward Weston (b. 1886) is one of the first fine art photographers
who intuitively experiences the intimacy,
two people leaning so close,
his breath and your breath are one.