|Brett Weston was the second of Edward and Flora Chandler Weston's four sons. By 1923 Edward and Flora's marriage was ending and Edward went to Mexico with his eldest son Chandler. Brett Weston was devastated by his father's departure and over the next two years he got into trouble at school. Edward returned to California in 1925 and took Brett Weston back to Mexico with him. While on the ship, Edward taught Brett Weston how to use his camera and to Edward's surprise, Brett Weston learned photography quickly and easily. Within a few months Edward stated that Brett Weston was "doing better work at fourteen than I did at thirty". When Edward and Brett Weston returned to California in 1927, they were inseparable. Edward set up a studio and he and Brett Weston worked together for the next 3 years. In 1929 twenty of Brett Weston's prints were accepted in the "Film und Foto" exhibition in Stuttgart. Among world famous architects, avant-garde film makers and photographers such as Berenice Abbott, Imogen Cunningham and Man Ray, the show brought Brett Weston international recognition.
By 1930 there was some strain in Edward and Brett Weston's relationship. Brett Weston decided it was time to leave and he set out on his own with his equipment, fifty dollars and a car. He set up an informal studio in a friend's home in Los Angeles. During the early years of the Great Depression he made a meager living as a portrait photographer. In 1932 he had his first one-man show at the M.H. de Young Museum. In 1935 he went to Santa Monica and once again opened up a studio with his father. Three years later he created his first portfolio, 10 images of San Francisco.
During World War II, he worked in an aircraft plant, as a cameraman at Twentieth Century-Fox, and eventually volunteered for the armed forces. By pulling a few strings he was assigned to the Signal Corps in New York where one of his commanders, Arthur Rothstein, gave him some time to photograph in the city. He shot with his 8 x 10 view camera and the resulting portfolio, "New York", was issued in 1951.
After Brett Weston was discharged he spent some time photographing from Florida to Maine for a Guggenheim grant he received. In 1947 he and his brother Cole sold their houses and bought a small ranch together in Carmel, California. Brett Weston continued to do portrait work and some of his photographs were published in magazines. In 1951, Brett Weston put together his father's "50th Anniversary Folio". Suffering from Parkinson's disease, Edward could no longer do his own work. In 1955, Brett Weston stopped making his own photographs and moved into Edward's home to work non-stop. Brett had mainly photographed in Alaska and California. In 1960 he traveled throughout Europe and returned to the States to work on his European Portfolio. In the years that followed, Brett Weston returned to Europe several more times and made two excursions to Japan. In 1968 a German camera company gave Brett a 2 & 1/4 SLR camera. The smaller format camera allowed him endless possibilities in the realm of abstractions. In 1975, the University of New Mexico exhibited his work in honor of his fiftieth year in photography.
For more information on Brett Weston, see Brett Weston: A Personal Selection with an introduction by Dody W. Thompson, or Brett Weston Photographs From Five Decades, an Aperture Monograph with a profile by R. H. Cravens.
Biography: Courtesy Lee Gallery, www.leegallery.com
Image: Portrait of Brett Weston by Merg Ross, courtesy Photography West Gallery
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