Surfaces and Strategies – Considering Other Photographers – Weston
“The camera sees more than the eye, so why not make use of it?”
– Weston (Siljander and Juusola, 2012: 3)
Weston’s photographs are generally high contrast monochrome images in which he utilize the available and artificial light to emphasize form. Whilst he took photographs of many different subjects that range from landscapes and still life vegetables, it is his portraits and nudes that have been of particular interest to me.
Figure 1: Edward Weston. Nude Dancer’s Knees. 1927
Figure 1 is of particular interest to me. As you move in closer and the subject fills more of the frame, you (as the viewer) experiences a stronger sense of intimacy with the subject even without seeing the face.
This photograph is part of Weston’s “Nudes” series. It is a close-up image that shows a woman kneeling on one knee. Weston has chosen to shoot the model from the shoulders down.
By shooting the image with a shallow depth of field, the subject is placed in the foreground. There looks to be a wall behind the model, although it could easily be a backdrop. Weston has lit the image from both the front and the left-hand side.
This has enabled Weston to create a high contrast image that includes lots of soft shadow areas on the body. The body is outlined by a strong black shadow created by the front light. The shadows that Weston has created in the image, highlight the curves and lines of the female body. This emphasizes the beauty in the form of the body. As a photographer, Weston was particularly interested in form, and this is seen in many of his images. Figure 2 is another example of this.
Figure 2: Weston. Nude, Charis Wilson. 1934
The arms and shins of the model (who incidently was also the ex-wife of Weston) are tightly framed in this image. There is no symmetry in the form, instead the subject of the image is off centre. The limbs are framed and hightlighted against a black background. These combined elements decontextualise the limbs from the rest of her body. Apart from the title of the image, there are no visual clues to the identity of the model. This anonymity adds to the illure, and stimulates my interest in the image.
Weston’s nudes and in particular his portrayal of close-up depictions of body parts has energised and motivated me to further explore photgraphically explore the forms and textures of the human body.
In response to Weston’s work, my intent is to capture the true beauty of parts of the body and present photographs that will challenge and subvert the traditions of Western Art where nude figures are youthful and slender, with unblemished and perfect bodies. I intend to seek out and produce images of ‘imperfect’ human bodies. This is a subject which has only marginally been explored in photographic terms. I will be inclusive in my choice and use of models to emphasise that everybody has beautiful and unique features that we should celebrate.
Siljander, R. and Juusola, L. (2012). Clandestine photography. Springfield, Ill.: Charles C. Thomas, Publisher.
Figure 1: Artnet.com. (2017). Edward Weston | artnet. [online] Available at: http://www.artnet.com/artists/edward-weston/?type=photographs [Accessed 01 June 2017].
Figure 2: Getty.edu. (2017). Edward Weston: Enduring Vision (Getty Center Exhibitions). [online] Available at: http://www.getty.edu/art/exhibitions/weston/ [Accessed 01 June 2017].