Edward WestonAmerican (Highland Park, Illinois, 1886 - 1958, Carmel, California)
Pipes and Stacks [Armco Steel, Ohio]
In many accounts of Weston's career, this photograph is held up as marking his conversion to Modernism. At the time he took it, Weston operated a commercial photography studio in Southern California, where he was known for soft-focus portraits. An adherent of Pictorialism, a dreamy style intended to resemble Victorian painting, Weston began to experiment with new approaches to the medium in the early 1920s.
On a trip to New York to bring his work to Alfred Stieglitz, Weston stopped off to visit his sister in Ohio, where he made this negative. Unlike his earlier work, it is crisply focused, tightly ordered, and shows a modern subject. His shift toward Modernism was not as abrupt as is often suggested, however. He did not have an instantaneous conversion experience, as some accounts would have us believe, but rather experimented for some time before producing this fully realized example of modernist photography.