“On the sand and in the water lay enormous redwood stumps, the silvery patina of the polished wood alternating with patches of charcoal black. There were the photographers, of course, down in the midst of it; Edward photographing stumps, Willard photographing stumps, as well as photographing Edward photographing stumps.”
Note: Unless stated otherwise, all photographs illustrated in this post are vintage prints currently owned by Paul M. Hertzmann, Inc. All photographs by Edward Weston © Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona.
In March 1937, Edward Weston became the first photographer ever awarded a prestigious Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship. The significance of this honor cannot be overstated. As Camera Craft proclaimed: “Every photographer can take pride in the appointment of Edward Weston as a Fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. This recognition of photography will bring satisfaction to every photographer and we are sure that all extend their thanks with ours to Mr. Weston. … in the opinion of this magazine no better man could have been chosen.” The Guggenheim itself described the focus of Weston’s project succinctly as: “The making of a series of photographic documents of the West.”
That summer, between 6–14 August, Weston and Charis Wilson traveled from San Francisco up the north coast of California and back scouting locations for the recently commenced Fellowship. Accompanying them were photographer Willard Van Dyke and their mutual friend Gretchen Schoninger. It was a rewarding journey despite such tribulations as persistent fog, car troubles, and miles of towering, photographically challenging redwoods. Charis’ keen journal observations and Weston’s masterful images recording what would ultimately be two years of Fellowship forays are revealed in a number of publications. Most notable are the acclaimed 1940 book, California and the West, and a series of twenty-one Westways magazine articles published by the Automobile Club of Southern California between August 1937 and July 1939 as “Seeing California with Edward Weston.”
During that brief August journey, Willard Van Dyke made a remarkable body of photographs of Weston on or near the north coast beaches they visited. Taken with a Zeiss Contax 35 mm camera, each of the resultant silver prints measures approximately 4 3/4 x 6 1/4 inches (or reverse). Van Dyke gave Weston over two dozen of these little known vintage prints and on 28 March 1938 Weston wrote to express his delight in receiving them:
But my reason for writing now is to acknowledge the express packages. Willard, I wish you were here to receive my—and Charis’s—embraces, kisses, etc. etc. etc. And I wish you could have seen the excitement when we opened to the E.W. series. They are simply swell; we roared, and admired. To have these, the only record of this year’s Guggenheim, means very much to me,—means more because you were with us. As a photographer I can deeply appreciate all the work involved in making this set, and thank you from my depths.
Years later, Weston gave these photographs to fellow photographer and film maker Louis Clyde Stoumen, from whom Paul M. Hertzmann, Inc. acquired them. The dates and locations attributed to the images illustrated here are based on this author’s careful review of descriptions afforded by Charis Wilson’s journal, an explanatory letter from Charis to Paul Hertzmann and Susan Herzig, and such internal visual clues as location landmarks and Weston’s clothing.
Van Dyke’s visual record, combined with Charis Wilson’s incisive written impressions, bring this remarkable August 1937 trip to life.Continue reading “16 December 2020: Traveling with Edward Weston: Through the Eyes of Willard Van Dyke”