PRINT April 1964


Brett Weston at Toren Gallery

THE TOREN GALLERY, at 30 West Portal Avenue, San Francisco, should be high on the list of places to be visited by students of photography. Mr. Toren, a commercial photographer himself, opens the front part of his establishment to occasional extensive shows by other photographers. Here we saw the recent color abstractions by Wynn Bullock. The current exhibit contains about fifty black-and-white contact prints by Brett Weston, a cross section of his work for a number of years. Weston’s photographs capture a wide variety of subjects—the ocean; landscapes, particularly in the southwest; plant forms; abstract patterns; anything that lends itself to the leisurely contemplation of a man using a large camera.

There is something so satisfying about a well-made large contact print that one often tends to overlook the content of the print in marveling at the beauty of the technique. Looking at the design and content, one finds Brett Weston the creator of a great number of almost-good photographs, and of a very few really good ones. He does not have his father’s fine, lascivious eye that lovingly translated dunes, peppers, sandstone rock forms into female nudes. Brett’s sandstone rock forms remain just what they are, rock and no more. He does not have Adams’s naturalistic philosophy that sees eternity expressed in mountains and sea. Nor does he have the sense of high-style design of Philip Hyde, who also photographs the western landscape. Brett Weston’s photographs too often have an unexplored area that is intrusive and detracts from the final print. He has studied the ground glass, but not carefully enough. There are fine prints; a fallen tree surrounded by succulents, made in 1951, and a fine abstraction made in 1953 (used by Arts and Architecture as a cover in February, 1955) are as fine as anything his father produced.

And there may lie the problem. Edward-the-Legendary is too tough an act to follow. Brett is a more sophisticated technician than his father, but he lacks his father’s decisive eye that made some of his prints among the best photographs that have been made. Some of Brett’s early prints, exhibited in the f/64 Group show at the San Francisco Museum last summer have a spirit of youthful curiosity and exploration that make us wonder what kind of photographer he would have become if he had followed his own ideas and not expended himself in competition with his father.

Margery Mann