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Edward Weston: A Vision Conserved


The Edward Weston Archive is one of the most significant collections in the history of photography. Edward Weston: A Vision Conserved presents a rare, behind-the-scenes glimpse into the care and preservation of this cultural treasure. The exhibition emphasizes the challenges faced in conserving fine prints and duplicating negatives, and offers a cross-section of outstanding portraits, nudes and nature studies from the wealth of Weston photographs in the collection. The culmination of a three-year project made possible by a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Arts, the exhibition sets the stage for future development in preservation and conservation at the Center for Creative Photography. (right: Edward Weston, Succulent, 1932. © 1981 Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents)

Weston pioneered a vision that revealed the stark essence of beauty in natural form. Setting aside the soft focus lenses and ideologies used by pictorialist photographers in the early part of the twentieth century to romanticize or create metaphor in their work, he began isolating ordinary objects such as vegetables, shells and the human body, rendering them in sharply focused detail. His style was straightforward and his techniques meticulous. Through his genius and the exquisite transformation of what he previsualized in the ground glass of his camera, to the image he captured in platinum or silver salts, he created a new ideal in the form of the absolute real.

Weston's photographic vision, his focused lifestyle, and the passionate writings published from his daybooks represent major contributions to photography and its history. A pioneer of American Realism in photography, his influence can be traced worldwide and his photographs continue to inspire those who view them today. (right: Edward Weston, Nude, 1927. © 1981 Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents)

The photograph isolates and perpetuates a moment of time: an important and revealing moment, or an unimportant and meaningless one, depending upon the photographer's understanding of his subject and mastery of his process.--Edward Weston

Edward Weston: A Vision Conserved is dedicated to the memory of his son Cole Weston [1919-2003] for his lifelong commitment to preserving and promoting his father's photographic legacy.

CCP's Director of Rights and Reproductions and exhibition co-curator, Dianne Nilsen, served as project manager of the Edward Weston negative duplication portion of the NEA grant. She formed a preservation team to test current processes and create a precise methodology for film-to-film duplication of negatives. She also oversaw the digitization of fine prints and the linking of image files to catalog records in order to minimize incidental handling of the collection. She has begun research and development at the Center for direct preservation of negatives through digitization. She notes, "Recent discoveries in the Edward Weston negative collection at CCP have allowed previously unknown gems such as portraits of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, African-American sculptor William Edmondson, Irish revolutionary Ernie O'Malley, and the mystic Krishnamurti to find new life through reproduction in publications."

A key member of the NEA preservation project, print conservator and exhibition co-curator Laura Downey Staneff identified photographs in the collection that would benefit from improved storage enclosures as well as a variety of conservation treatments on selected works, such as consolidation of cracked emulsion, surface cleaning, in-painting losses with watercolors, and the removal of adhesives from emulsion. According to Laura, "From its conception, the NEA project has been a boon to the Center's collection, not only in preserving this extremely important group of prints and negatives, but also serving as a model of preservation planning and implementation."



Dianne Nilsen is Director of Rights and Reproductions at the Center for Creative Photography, where copyright administration, digital imaging and traditional photographic services are managed. She studied photography at the Universities of Alabama and Oregon in the mid-1970s and was apprenticed to photographer Brett Weston in Carmel Valley, California for two years prior to her move to Arizona in 1978. She received a BFA with an emphasis in photography at the University of Arizona in 1979. In February of 2003, she was the recipient of a University of Arizona Staff Excellence Award.

Laura Downey Staneff is a conservator of photographs and art on paper who performed the conservation of the Edward Weston fine prints shown in this exhibition. She currently resides in Albuquerque, New Mexico where she works for the University of New Mexico Art Museum and manages a private conservation practice. A native of Tucson, she has previously worked with the Center for Creative Photography as well as the Arizona State Museum while obtaining a Master's degree in Art History from the University of Arizona. She also holds a Master of Arts in Art Conservation from the State University College at Buffalo (1994), and was a Mellon Fellow in the Advanced Residency in Photograph Conservation at the George Eastman House/Image Permanence Institute in Rochester, New York, from 1999-2000.

A free series of educational programs for the community has been organized to accompany this exhibition (see separate sheet for a detailed listing). CCP Curator of Education Cass Fey states, "As an archive, museum and research institution, CCP is dedicated to photography as an art form and cultural record. Edward Weston: A Vision Conserved goes to the heart of the Center's mission, which is to collect, preserve, make accessible, exhibit, interpret, and encourage the study of photographers and other materials of importance to the history of photography."




The Center for Creative Photography is home to the world's largest and most complete archive representing the life's work of American photographer Edward Weston. The papers in the archive offer a treasure trove of quotes as well as richly documented evidence of interpersonal relationships yet to be woven into the history of the medium. CCP acquired the Weston Archive from his four sons in 1981. The archive includes over 2,000 prints, nearly 10,000 negatives, original daybooks, and correspondence. An assortment of records documenting his travels to Mexico, his two Guggenheim Fellowship trips, and a variety of ephemera relating to his life and career can also be found here.



Edward Weston: A Vision Conserved is organized by the Center for Creative Photography with funding, in part, from the National Endowment for the Arts. This extensive project enabled the CCP to conserve a selection of Edward Weston's fine prints, duplicate 2,500 large format negatives, and complete the digitalization of his photographs in the collection.



Margrethe Mather & Edward Weston: A Passionate Collaboration


Edward Weston: A Vision Conserved


All programs are free and take place at the Center for Creative Photography.

Reception and Curator's Slide Lecture: Edward Weston and the Late Miss Mather

Friday, August 29, Reception, 5-6 pm/Lecture, 6 pm, Auditorium

Beth Gates Warren, exhibition curator and author of Margrethe Mather & Edward Weston: A Passionate Collaboration, is an historian of photography and the former director of Sotheby's New York Photographs Department. She has lectured and taught classes at such institutions as The New School, the International Center of Photography, New York University, and the Phillips Museum of Art in Washington, D.C.

Gallery Talk

Bohemians in Los Angeles: The Letters from Mather to Weston

Thursday, September 4, 5:30 pm

Amy Rule, Archivist, Center for Creative Photography, will show Mather's handwritten letters in the Edward Weston Archive and discuss the time and place in which they were written.

Gallery Talk

Decision Making in the Conservation of Weston's Fine Prints

Thursday, September 18, 5:30 pm

The prints exhibited in Edward Weston: A Vision Conserved are a small fraction of the Edward Weston Archive held by the CCP. How were these prints chosen for conservation treatment? What problems made them require attention where others did not? Why was it decided not to treat some prints? Laura Downey Staneff, a conservator of photographs and art on paper who performed the conservation of the fine prints shown in this exhibition, will discuss the project. Downey Staneff works for the University of New Mexico Art Museum, manages a private conservation practice, and holds a Master of Arts in Art Conservation from the State University College at Buffalo.


Gallery Talk

Edward Weston's Negatives: The Preservation Project

Thursday, September 25, 5:30 pm

The 10,000 negatives in Edward Weston's archive have proven to be a treasure trove of imagery for researchers and publications worldwide. Discoveries include previously unpublished portraits of the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, African-American sculptor William Edmondson and his studio, and photographer Tina Modotti. Exhibition co-curator and preservation project manager Dianne Nilsen, project consultant Keith Schreiber, and student preservation team members Jim Martin, Chod McClintock and Joseph Oland will show examples of how film ages, and present an overview of a three-year project to duplicate 2,500 collection negatives.


Slide Lecture

Beaumont Newhall on Edward Weston:

Revisiting the Reflections of a Master Historian

Thursday, October 2, 5:30 pm, Auditorium

In 1990, Beaumont Newhall, former Curator of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art and author of The History of Photography: From 1939 to the Present Day, MOMA, New York (1964), presented this slide lecture on Edward Weston at the Center for Creative Photography. Keith McElroy, Associate Professor of Art, the University of Arizona, who was Newhall's first graduate student at the University of New Mexico, will introduce the taped lecture and discuss Newhall and his relationship to Weston.

Slide Lecture

Eyes to the Orient: Margrethe Mather and Edward Weston

Thursday, October 9, 5:30 pm, Auditorium

Before most of their colleagues even cared, Margrethe Mather and Edward Weston were admiring and absorbing diverse manifestations of Asian cultures, some of which were reflected in their photographic work from about 1910 on. Presented by Amy Conger, who wrote her dissertation and has published widely on and around Edward Weston's photographs, his friends and intellectual milieu, including Edward Weston: Photographs, a 1992 catalog of the 1,826 works by him at the Center for Creative Photography.

This program is sponsored, in part, by the Tucson Visiting Artists Consortium.


Please also see our article Edward Weston: Photography and Modernism.

Read more articles and essays concerning this institutional source by visiting the sub-index page for the Center for Creative Photography - University of Arizona in Resource Library Magazine

Search for more articles and essays on American art in Resource Library. See America's Distinguished Artists for biographical information on historic artists.

This page was originally published in 2003 in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information.

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