Very few announcements in recent memory have excited me more than the one for this volume of the incomparable Edward Weston. I have waited for many months for my pre-ordered copy to arrive. I am quite disappointed in the finished work. Please allow me a few moments to clarify.
First the good: The book imagery is beautifully selected, sequenced, and designed. There is one reproduction per page accompanied by a title and a quote from Weston's daybooks. The combination of "greatest hits" and lesser-known gems makes for a fine collection. The imagery is roughly chronological and clustered in categories to provide cohesive "chapters" from Weston's body of work. The print size, contact 8x10" and 4x5," is simply perfect. The gold slip case (not a clamshell as advertised!) and thick end boards make for a very handsome volume. It sure looks great on the shelf.
Now the bad: I shake my head with wonder at the person or persons who signed off on the ink and paper combination for this book. The reproductions are perfectly detailed and exacting but the entire book is flat, flat, flat. The paper is mostly matte-surfaced which in combination with this ink does not allow for a long tonal range. For certain images, the shells for example, this combination does look nice. But for far too many of the images, especially the landscapes, it just looks flat. Weston would not have approved. His amidol-developed glossy prints from his pyrogallic-acid developed negatives are the very definition of long scale photography. I relish Weston prints in person for their realism and tonality. I get zero sense of that beauty from this book.
In conclusion I am unhappy with this volume. If you are looking for fine reproductions of Weston's work find a copy of the Merrell-published "Edward Weston: A Legacy." This hard to find book is superior in nearly every way and it's price reflects this. In my happy dreams this volume would be redone exactly as is with glossier paper and brighter ink. For that book I would gladly pay double the asking price.