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Photography – A Beginner’s Guide – Fine Art Photography [Edward Weston] – An article by Goff James

Welcome followers and visitors to my blog and another update in my photography Beginner’s Guide to Photography.

This week I will be, again, taking a look at Fine Art Photography and looking at an image by Edward Weston.

As I have stated in previous articles one can learn so much about photography by looking at; and, talking about other photographers’ work.

Fine Art Photography “photographic art”, “artistic photography”  may be defined as;

  • possessing no universally agreed meaning or definition,
  • referring to an imprecise category of photographs, created in accordance with the creative vision of the photographer.
  • not merely capturing a realistic rendition of the subject, but aiming to produce a more personal – typically more evocative or atmospheric – impression.
  • describing any image taken by a camera where the intention is aesthetic rather than scientific, commercial or journalistic.

  • as a type of photographythat represents an idea, a message, or an emotion wherein the artist has something that they want to convey in their work.
  • not being about capturing what the camera sees but about capturing what the artist sees.
  • using the camera as a tool to create a work of art revealing the vision of the artist and making a statement of that vision rather than documenting the subject before the lens.
  • that the recording a subject is not the main purpose.
  • using photography as a means to express a vision and make an artistic statement.
  • the intentional execution of an imagethrough choosing the elements in its structure, framing, appearance, presentation and technical excellence.
  • representing or conveying an idea, a message or an emotion.

Johnson, A., 2017

Screen Shot 2017-11-18 at 16.23.02
Edward Weston, Pepper No 25, 1930

© Edward Weston, Pepper No. 30 (1930)

The black and white image fills the frame and depicts with great clarity a solitary, malformed, pepper.

The pepper is placed in a tin funnel, which provided not only a curving, undefinable background, but also refracts the lighting.

The funnel reflects the soft lighting from above  which highlights the object’s bulbous sensual curving contours, smooth skin and its very vulnerability with the hint of decay.

Such decay grounds the subject, heightens the tension between subject and form as well as ideal and real.

Kim Weston (the photographer’s grandson) stated in an interview that:

it was shot at an aperture of f/240 with an exposure time of 4-6 hours.

However the photographer states in his writings that:

I placed it in the funnel, focused with the Zeiss, and knowing just the viewpoint, recognising a perfect light, made an exposure of six minutes…”

The anthropomorphic vegetable has been transformed, almost to abstraction, into a sculptural narrative with its long, smooth turning surfaces, glowing light on the tactile skin, gentle folding curves, the exaggerated contrasts between light and dark, concave and convex, rough and smooth surfaces, the light brushwork along the bottom of the photograph all add  contrasting textural qualities.

These various elements accentuate the sculptural three dimensionality of the object despite the flatness of the printed image.

The pepper has been transformed from being a mere mundane object the subject of a still life into a piece fine art.

The pepper has been transformed into a sensual object with curves that not only echoes Auguste Renoir’s “The Kiss” but also the human form and modernist sculptures the likes of Hans Arp and Henry Moore.

The image’s ultra-realism bleeds into the artistic world of abstraction and surrealism.

Edward Weston described it in his Daybooks as:

‘… a classic, completely satisfying, – a pepper – but more than a pepper: abstract, in that it is completely outside subject matter.  It has no psychological attributes, no human emotions are aroused: this new pepper takes one beyond the world we know in the conscious mind. . . .(California, p. 181.)

The image makes the commonplace wondrous transforming it into a piece of fine art.

The organic form of the pepper is imbued with a spectrum of delicate monochromatic tonal hues, its formal perfection and technical execution heightens its presence to the point where it appears to be almost unreal.

The image transcends the mere pictorial and has become an art form in its own right.

By photographing in close-up EW has captured

”… the very substance and quintessence of the thing itself “.

Edward Weston

The pepper has been transformed from being a mere mundane object or subject for still life into a piece fine art.

That which is appealing is that the photographer has created within the object an aesthetic existence of its own

“completely outside subject matter” and “takes one beyond the world we know in the conscious mind”. 

Edward Weston

I trust that you find some of these ideas useful within the context of your own photography.

Don’t be afraid to experiment and allow different ideas to develop as you go along.

Remember the things which I have referred to in previous articles about taking photos and creating photograms; the same applies to considering your own photos, other photographers’ work as well as applying different artist’s ideas too.

Don’t be afraid to experiment.

Experiment! Experiment! Experiment!

Remember there are no right or wrong answers or ways of doing it.

Your photographs are your world.

You can do what you like. 

Don’t worry about the theory and trying to remember everything about how to take or consider how to look at or stage a photograph.

Don’t worry about what you might think is right or wrong in talking about or taking photographs.

 Make mistakes. Laugh. Have funJust enjoy the process.

Happy Photography. 

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