Brett Weston (1911-1993) was considered by many to be brilliant, visionary, prodigious, and among the most important photographers of the twentieth century. Yet, his achievements have often been overshadowed by those of his renowned father, Edward. In the first major exhibition in 30 years to be dedicated to Bretts prolific body of work, "Brett Weston: Out of the Shadow" concentrates on the photographers distinct creative spirit. On view at the Currier
through January 3, 2010, this exhibition shows how Weston captured the magic of black and white prints through more than 100 exquisitely printed vintage photographs from the 1920s through the 1980s, all handcrafted by the artist.
"Out of the Shadow" focuses attention on Bretts abstract black-and-white photographs of landscapes, shapes and textures, and architectural elements. A pioneer in his field, Brett captured the intricacies and rhythms of form, light, and shadow, while avoiding photographic techniques such as contrived lighting, staging, or other manipulation.
Aside from two series taken in San Francisco in the 1930s and New York in the 1940s, and abstract images of painted walls, broken glass, and cars, Brett focused on aspects of the natural world, in both close-ups and big views. Although all of his photographs seem to have been taken outdoors, Brett did not consider himself a nature photographer. Many of his most beautiful and accomplished images are associated with water beads of moisture, bubbles, clouds, ice, ocean, puddles, underwater nudes, wet kelp, and wet stones. His sensual black-and-white images transformed quiet moments into powerful statements of bold abstractions. From the rocks of "Pebble Beach" (1980) that shimmer as if made from mercury, to the sand and horizon in "White Sands New Mexico" (1945) that looks so stark they join as one, Brett built his oeuvre by pushing the limits of vivid black-and-white contrasts.
Born in Los Angeles, Brett left California at the age of 13 to live with his father Edward in Mexico, taking his first picture on the boat ride south. In Mexico Brett learned form and composition from his father while using his portrait camera. Edward commented in his daybook, ―He is doing better work at 14 than I did at 30. To have someone close to me, working so excellently, with an assured future, is happiness hardly expected.‖ Brett received international recognition for his work at age 17, when 20 of his photographs appeared in the exhibition "Film und Foto" (1929), along with work by Edward Steichen, Berenice Abbott, Man Ray, and others. In 1947, Brett was awarded a Guggenheim grant to photograph East Coast landscapes.
A year later, Brett returned to California to help care for Edward as his health declined and to print his fathers photographs, exercising the ultimate influence on Edwards art. In the following decades, Brett continued to create images of landscape and nature, making several trips to photograph locations in Europe, Japan, and Central America. In the late 1970s, Brett built a house in Hawaii, where he worked and lived for most of the rest of his life. He guaranteed that he would be the only person to ever print his work by destroying all but a few negatives, which are permanently damaged. Brett died in 1993, in Kona, Hawaii.