Edward Weston, Dunes, Oceano (this lot)
‘To clearly express my feelings for life with photographic beauty, present objectively the texture, rhythm, form in nature without subterfuge or evasion in technique or spirit, to record the quintessence of the object or element before my lens, rather than an interpretation, a superficial phase, or passing mood—this is my way in photography. It is not an easy way.’
- Edward Weston, 1927

Nearly a decade after recording his thoughts on photographing from nature, Edward Weston became engrossed in capturing the shape-shifting landscape of Oceano Dunes Natural Preserve, where he first photographed in 1934 during a trip with filmmaker Willard Van Dyke. Writing about this short visit, Weston noted: ‘I made several dune negatives that mark a new epoch in my work. I must go back there—the material made for me!’ (Daybooks II, p. 282).

Edward Weston in 1932, photograph by Willard Van Dyke

1936 proved to be a momentous year: Oceano impressed him so dramatically that he and Charis Wilson moved there. They camped in a desolate cabin that allowed easy access to the dunes at different times of day so that Weston could capture the dramatic effects of light, shadow, and seasonality on this chameleon-like landscape. In 1936, Weston also became the first photographer to receive a Guggenheim Fellowship.

In 1937, Weston’s retrospective exhibition opened at the San Francisco Museum of Art. It featured 160 photographs, 19 of which were recent studies of dunes. The exhibition label on the reverse of the mount confirms that this print was included in this historic installation.

Extant prints of the present dune study are scarce. Conger accounts for only a handful in institutional collections: the Center for Creative Photography, Tucson; Harrison Memorial Library, Carmel; Art Institute of Chicago; George Eastman House, Rochester; the Huntington Library, San Marino; The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; and a later Project Print in the collection of the University of California at Santa Cruz.