San Marino, CA
A new exhibition opening this fall considers a rich dialogue between two iconic figures in American culture: the renowned photographer Edward Weston (1886–1958) and poet Walt Whitman (1819–1892). The 25 photographs included in the exhibition illuminate an understudied chapter of Weston’s career. In 1941, the Limited Editions Book Club approached Weston to collaborate on a deluxe edition of Whitman’s poetry collection, Leaves of Grass. The publisher’s ambitious plan was to capture “the real American faces and the real American places” that defined Whitman’s epic work. Weston eagerly accepted the assignment and set out with his wife, Charis Wilson, on a cross-country trip that yielded a group of images that mark the culmination of an extraordinarily creative period in his career.
While Weston believed the photographs to be some of his best (he donated 90 pictures from the series to The Huntington in 1944, along with hundreds of other images), the resulting Limited Editions publication proved a failure on many fronts. As a result, the photographs from the Leaves of Grass project have been relegated to footnote status in Weston’s oeuvre. “Real American Places” seeks to give this unjustly overlooked body of work its due.
In addition to selections from the series, the exhibition will include a number of original Whitman items from the Library’s holdings, allowing visitors to explore the creative response of one giant of American culture in conversation with another.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website