1921: In praise of photographer Margrethe Mather (and Edward Weston): Larchmont Chronicle
Edward Weston’s name is what we remember now. In 1921, however, when Larchmont Boulevard was born, Edward Weston and Margrethe Mather were in hiding in Weston’s simple (but successful) wooden portrait studio in Glendale.
The two photographers were collaborators since 1913, and will remain so until 1923. The pictures they took together in 1921 and the following year taught the world to see again.
But Mather is remembered by few, except for the history of photography students. Yet she was Weston’s collaborator and teacher and, in Weston’s own words spoken decades later, “the first important person in my life.”
Mather and Weston were keenly aware of the fruit tree of American Modernism at the end of World War I. Softness and impressionistic images in the visual arts were as old-fashioned as long skirts. Ideas born out of Cubism, Dada, technology, the distillation of forms and everyday beauty were part of the new modernist conversation. How to find their own photographic vocabulary?
Weston was born in 1886. He came of age at the start of the Pictorialist photographic movement, which flourished in the United States and England between 1889 and the start of the First World War. These blurry, atmospheric images were impressionistic, seemingly unrelated to reality. world.
Weston later became best known for his Modernist aesthetic: elegant, simple, fiercely intimate, sensual images, with perfectly balanced shadows and lights. This aesthetic was shaped in a significant way by the synergy – and love – between Mather and Weston. It is essential to understand that Mather was the vanguard of the creative relationship. His work caused Weston to reassess his.
Mather and Weston weren’t working in a creative vacuum. They were part of a ‘bohemian’ group of artists from all mediums, including Charlie Chaplin, leftist writer Max Eastman, poet Moon Kwan (whom Mather photographed in such a surprising and elegant way that Weston has ran to keep pace), among others.
In 1921, and for a brief period thereafter, Weston and Mather jointly signed photographs, the only time in Weston’s long career where he shared the award with someone else. (He died in 1958.)
When Carl Sandburg visited Los Angeles in early 1921, he read his poetry at the Friday Morning Club. Before leaving Los Angeles, he traveled to Glendale for a seated portrait with Mather and Weston. Instead, they took him to a bridge over the LA River. The resulting photograph is a masterpiece of light and shadow and architectural sweep, as Sandberg leans on the wooden bridge and casually gazes at the river.
Weston’s departure for Mexico in 1923 with his new love and protégé, Tina Modotti, was the conclusion of Mather and Weston’s relationship. He left behind a 10-year collaboration and an “unresolved love story, even as she struggled to relegate their languid days in Los Angeles, spent together or with their bohemian friends, to the province of the past,” according to their joint biographer Beth Gates. Warren.
Weston’s career subsequently reached the heights of international fame, where his reputation remains. He nurtured other loves to establish a photographic career and help his own – not only Modotti, but Sonya Noskowiak as well.
But Mather, his mentor, has been largely erased from his legacy. “The Daybooks of Edward Weston” (first published in 1961) opened in 1923, in Mexico. He destroyed his first diaries, a recording of his Glendale days with Mather. But the dozen or more beautiful and meaningful photographs they left behind, “irrefutable proof,” Warren writes, “of the creative spirit and tremendous talent they shared in a unique time and place.” . It was in Los Angeles, in 1921.
By Paula Panich