A week after Sonya Noskowiak brought Edward Weston a pepper from the market in Carmel, California, Edward Weston wrote in his diary that it was beginning “to show the strain and tonight should grace a salad.”
He changed his dinner menu, however, and the next day put the pepper in a tin funnel to take its picture.
“I have a great negative—by far the best,” he wrote after developing his film, adding that the picture had no “psychological attributes, no human emotions are aroused.” This was an important point. Friends felt his photographs of vegetables were sexually suggestive, and their comments had annoyed the photographer.
Weston developed several negatives that day, so it’s impossible to know for certain which one he thought was the best. He made 25 prints of negative #30, but it is so blindingly anthropomorphic that it can’t be the one. Not that it matters. As curator Dianne Nilsen pulled negative #35p (13 prints) from its envelope, I saw that light had arranged particles of silver on its surface with such beauty that it took my breath away.
“It has been suggested that I am a cannibal to eat my models after a masterpiece,” Weston wrote that week, “but I rather like the idea that they become part of me, enriching my blood as well as my vision”.
John Loengard, Celebrating the Negative is available to museums as a touring exhibition from Curatorial Assistance.
Celebrating the Negative
by John Loengard
Release in 1994
Published by Arcade Publishing