Lessons I Learned From Photographer Kim Weston

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Photographer Kim Weston reviewing prints

Photo by Jack Wasserbach

On Wednesday, February 10, the Center for Photographic Art in Carmel offered a treat to its members by hosting a print review night with photographer Kim Weston. Grandson of the legendary photographer Edward Weston, Kim is an artist and educator who keeps the family photography legacy thriving. Kim and wife Gina established a scholarship fund in 2004 to support high-school and college students interested in fine art photography. Kim dedicated a great part of his career, which spans over 30 years, to fine art nudes.

Dozens of photographers lined up for the review and presented Kim with a variety of subject matter, from black & white silver gelatin abstracts  to poetic platinum-palladium landscapes to raw street photography.  Always taking the time to critique the images one by one, Kim provided a treasure chest of information and insights to all who attended.

"Photographs have to have something to say"

The first question he asked photographers was "Why did you make this photograph? That question kept me thinking. There is not always an easy answer. Is it the subject, the location, the color, the light? Why is this image important? When I am photographing and I see a beautiful flower, for example, I don't ask for a reason, I just take the photo. But when showing this to other people, especially to gallery curators, there has to be more than just "it is beautiful". As Kim puts it, "every photograph has to say something." Remembering his uncle, photographer Brett Weston, he said: "Brett used his camera as an expression from his heart." So there you have it, first lesson learned.

"The great thing about art is that you can make it uniquely yours"

He then went ahead and asked "What is important for you in this image? As photographers started pointing out parts of the image they liked and thought was important, Kim started to take things out of the image. Armed with two mat boards, one in each hand, he covered parts of the image suggesting interesting and sometimes controversial crops. "Photographers make conscious decisions all the time about what to include in the image. The great thing about art is that you can make it uniquely yours. That is what separates reporting from story telling." Simple things like the space between the subject and the edges, the balance of negative spaces in corners, the existence of an entry and exit point, and the flow of light throughout the image are all very important and can change the message altogether. Eliminate everything not needed to convey your message." Second lesson learned.

"What is important is the power of the image"

Given his family tradition, I thought he would be a strong advocate for traditional darkroom work and silver gelatin prints like his uncle and grandfather. So it was a surprise listening to him saying "the process is not important, it is the image, the power of the image that matters." Third lesson learned.

Here is a Kim Weston interview by Jim Kasson for the Center for Photographic Art.

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