Weston’s Shells

Our merry band of intrepid photographers from the Lawrence Photo Alliance traveled to Kansas City today for a tour of the photography exhibit at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. One of the highlights of the tour for me was to see, first-hand, Edward Weston’s legendary still life “Shells“.

My remark to anyone in the vicinity was “Time to make the obligatory study of an authentic Weston”. After all, Weston is the primal Fine Art photographer, the gold standard to which all others are compared. This print, “Shells” is one of the legendary still lifes from the 1920s.

So what makes it so great? Well, for one thing, its perfect. Perfect in composition, Weston’s trademark. Its simple, which it should be. The tones and lighting are Weston’s choice for his interpretation of the form. These could be varied, but what we see is what Weston decided on. It works. I’m glad I had the opportunity to study it.

My own attempts at still life photographer have been meager, but I try. I’ve found it to be the most challenging form of subject that I’ve tried. Maybe Weston did to. Perhaps his most famous work, “Pepper #30” was reported to be his thirtieth attempt at the photograph. In this example shown below, I did ten takes before I got what I liked. And its still no Weston. (Still Life #10 taken with Polaroid Type 55 film, natural lighting).

Many Thanks to Dan Coburn for organizing and arranging the outing.

Still Life #10″ by Alex Hawley

  1. Check out the book “Plant Kingdoms, The Photographs of Charles Jones” if you can find it (often in bargain bins since no one knows who Charles Jones is). Charles Jones was an English gardener and photographer who lived from 1866 to 1959. He was creating wonderful still life photographs (in the style of straight photography) of the vegetables, fruits, and plants he grew . Charles Jones was “discovered” in the 1980s when an art dealer bought a trunk full of his glass plates and gold toned, silver gelatin prints. The work is amazing, and the story (what little we know) of Charles Jones fascinating. It has always reminded me of Weston’s still lifes, particularly Pepper #30, but Charles Jones was doing this work over 20 years before Weston began making the transition from pictorialism to straight photography.

  2. Hey Alex,
    Great post and I love your photo. I was glad to see such a good turn out for our outing.

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