Brett Weston: Significant Details

“Brett Weston (1911–1993)—one of the most celebrated and prolific photographers of the twentieth century—is best known for his scenic images, although the bulk of his work ranges from the middle-distance scene to close-up abstractions. Brett Weston: Significant Details is the first museum exhibition to focus on Weston’s close-up photography. Featuring approximately 40 photographs taken over a period of 55 years, the works—over half of which are on view for the first time—share the high-contrast and graphic qualities of Weston’s panoramic photographs while emphasizing the “significant details,” the tendency toward abstraction and extremes in tonality that Weston explored through his nearly-60-year career. The exhibition also highlights how intuition and a dedication to photography in its purest form guided his practice and further contextualizes Weston within the modern West Coast photography movement.

By the age of 25, Weston’s work had been included in the landmark international photography exhibition Film und Foto and in a solo exhibition at the M. H. de Young Museum in San Francisco. Though he received critical acclaim and his reputation grew, Weston remained dedicated to art for art’s sake and to creating pure, elemental photographs. He was a simple man and used the same equipment for most of his career. However, when health problems forced him to switch to a smaller camera—the Rollei—in 1968, he was able to more easily focus on the close-up photographs, and as a result he became increasingly intent on exploring specific details and abstract qualities. These images form the core of Significant Details and demonstrate the major themes present in Weston’s work: a play on scale, the absence of the human presence, and a refrain from imposed order, bringing to the forefront the unprecedented attention to form, texture, shadow, and light that was the distinctive characteristic of Weston’s oeuvre.”

Brett Weston: Significant Details is organized by the Pasadena Museum of California Art and curated by Erin Aitali, PMCA Exhibition Manager and Registrar.

Exhibition Gallery

Featured Photo

Untitled (Leaves, Ferns, Hawaii), c. 1980

Ferns were the perfect subject of satisfy Brett’s search for pattern.  He looked for it in everything from dunes to rocks to buildings.  The placement of the leaves divide the composition naturally into thirds with the highlight on the middle frond.  It is a beautiful photograph made near the end of Brett’s career, emphasizing the fact that his eye never waivered.