Curated by Jon Burris
As the second son of Edward Weston, it was predictable that Brett Weston (1911–1993) would become an accomplished photographer after he was removed from school at the age of twelve and taken to live with his father and Tina Modotii in Mexico. At his father’s side, he began making photographs that astonished audiences when they were first exhibited in the 1920s. By the time he was a teenager, he was producing work that rivaled that of his father, and it was assumed that his photographic career would be equally stellar. However, instead of stepping forward to embrace his celebrity and build a public career, the younger Weston chose a quieter life, dedicating himself to a relentlessly individual pursuit of his art. Enormously prolific, he was however, highly selective about what he exhibited during his lifetime. Today, the numerous prints in the care of the Brett Weston Archive from the Christian Keesee Collection represent a lifetime in photography that we are only now beginning to assess.
The first in a series of exhibitions aimed at rediscovering the work of this respected American modernist photographer, Brett Weston in New York is a window into this brilliant artist’s wartime imagery from late 1943 to 1945. Drafted into the United States Army, Weston found himself stationed on Long Island under the command of a sympathetic ex-FSA photographer, Arthur Rothstein, who charged him with photographing New York City. After completing his assignments, Weston was free to explore the city’s endless visual resources on his own, and the photographs made during this fortuitous period remain fresh and revealing documents.
Weston was already an experienced architectural photographer upon his arrival in New York, having created a number of notable panoramas of San Francisco. In New York, he perfected his craft in evocative studies of the rooftops, towers, doorways, fences, streets, and bridges of the bustling metropolis. With his notoriously precisionist style, large-format cameras—the cumbersome 8 x 10 and 11 x 14 view cameras were his tools of choice—and exquisite contact printing method, Weston captured details of city life that went unmentioned in other documentarists’ pictures. In photographs such as Brooklyn Bridge—a ubiquitous subject to be sure—the photographer’s democratic technique captures the specific characteristics of the bridge, along with a whole universe of supporting details that make for an incredibly rich evocation of the urban fabric. Here and there in the photographs are familiar glimpses of classic New York—stationary delivery trucks, chaotic signage, the Chrysler building in the distance beyond jumbled rooftops—but, more importantly, each image displays a formalist’s love of structure, pattern, and form in the city’s often random juxtaposition of architectural styles, textures, and materials.
Brett Weston in New York focuses on an important transitional period for the photographer, a time when he refined and expanded his approach to photography, preparing him for the diverse subjects he would later document in exotic locales around the world.
NUMBER OF WORKS: 76 vintage prints by Weston, one vintage portrait of Weston
TOUR DATES: September 1997 - November 1999
The Bruce Museum | Greenwich, CN
(October 1 - November 19, 1999)
Museum of Photography | Antwerp, Belgium
(September 15 - November 15, 1998)
International Center of Photography | Uptown, New York
(September 19 - November 30, 1997)
CAPTIONS (all works by Brett Weston)