VINE VOICETOP 500 REVIEWERon 4 July 2012
Edward Weston truly deserved the tag of 'Icon' derived from the series title. He was the equal of Ansell Adams, who also deserves the accolade but whose works are largely controlled by a Trust that bears his name and probably not therefore available to this publisher, who was a generation younger and lived for about 30 years beyond him. The two both loved nature and, to some extent, could be interested by some of the same things. However, there were strong differences in their individual approaches and techniques.
Weston loved the close-up and could concentrate on a single, relatively small object - for example, he did a loose series on shells of which the cover image is one and another on ferms. Adams loved the grand landscape, including mountains, lakes and rivers, and trees especially within the Yosemite National Park and the coastline around the Big Sur in California. The terrain was rugged, remote and sometimes isolated which was what Adams loved most. Although Adams sometimes would include people in his images they were subservient to their surroundings, whatever they were, and most often there only to provide scale; they were never the prime subject. Weston also photographed friends and his occasional lovers, much as Picasso would do in his paintings, and produced some high class portraits, almost always outdoors, and some nude studies. Whatever his subject, he made the best of it.
Included in this book are examples across the full spectrum of subject matter of Weston's work including his landscapes, nature studies and close-ups, portraits, nudes, and even some industrial and architectural studies. They date from the immediate post-WW1 years through to his death about 40 years later. Some of his images show a nodding resemblance to those of Man Ray whom he knew quite well. Although I am familiar with a moderate number of Weston's images via several books, magazines and articles, there are many that are unfamiliar in addition to some that I know.
Taschen is one of a small number of publishers that can and do provide the highest possible quality in their books and offer the closest possible representation of the original print. Their abilities are such that they offer highly collectible 'Art Editions' of many of their titles that are produced in limited numbers and sell for thousands of euros per copy. Although this book is not of that calibre, or price, it is about as close to perfection as you will find and an excellent introduction to Weston, should you need one.
As Taschen is a German publisher, its titles are usually first issued in that language and later in French and English. There may, therefore be three parallel versions, each in a different language. Sometimes, it will combine all three versions into a single edition from the outset and include translations of the captions, where they exist or are needed, and whatever text elements it contains. Some may consider this an unacceptable compromise, but I don't mind unless the text forms a substantial proportion of the content, which it does not here; just a few pages for each language. In this book, the introductory section is not en bloc at the front of the book but distributed as if wholly different segments; the image captions are in all three languages.
If you are interested in nature photography and want an opportunity to see some of the best ever created, you will certainly find it here although the book is not limited to those alone. The images are all black and white, which was Weston's choice. This is a book of his photographs, but is not in any way instructional, other than by his example. There are other books of Weston's photographs, including at least one other that includes samples of most of the styles for which he was known, not solely his nature work. For a more instructional and modern approach to nature photography in colour, you could try titles by Heather Angel as a starting point, although her style and subject of priority is significantly different than Weston's.
As it stands, this book is a brilliant example of Weston's work and worthy of inclusion in anyone's collection.