Scion of famed photographic clan encourages new generations while continuing his own explorations.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Kim Weston is a steward of a photography legacy passed down through his grandfather Edward, his father Cole and his uncle Brett. Together, they comprise one of the most formidable and influential artistic bloodlines this country has produced in the 20th century. But on a warm Saturday morning, at his rustic home at Wildcat Hill, Kim seems eager to talk about something else – high school kids.
In 2004, Kim, a fine art photographer for 30 years, and his wife Gina founded Weston Scholarship, a nonprofit that awards grants, exhibits and mentorship to the county’s most accomplished fine art photography students. Last year the couple, with artist Reed Harrington, reviewed 72 portfolios, each containing the requisite 10 photographs.
“This year there are 91 portfolios,” says Kim. But he’s had a lot of practice curating. He did it for last year’s inaugural Carmel Art & Film Festival. And he recently sifted through 4,000 photos for the Julia Margaret Cameron Worldwide Photography Gala for women photographers, helping whittle them down to 80.
“You have to be decisive,” he says. “It comes from years of being sure of what I’m doing. I have a tendency to go, ‘That, that, that and that.’”
Gina and Harrington add their own unique insights, he says. The winning student photographs will be exhibited at the Marjorie Evans Gallery at Sunset Center starting with an opening reception 6-7pm Wednesday, May 5, that will also introduce the Student Fine Print Program, which sells past winners’ prints to raise money for the next crop of scholarship winners.
“Students do a lot of social commentary in their photos,” Kim says. “Last year we saw this trend – photos of their lives, their friends and families. I call it message-driven photography. You can’t judge that against fine art photography. So we split the two [categories].”
He holds up a mounted photo of a 5-year old boy, looking forlornly up at the camera. The message, if any, is broad, but might suggest the vulnerability of children. Then he holds up a photograph of a woodsy scene of deep shadows and vibrantly alive leaves and stately trunks. It’s impressive, painterly and largely message neutral.
“A photograph has a weight to it,” he says. “I look at everything as an abstract of negative space, positive space, light.”
Kim indulgently talks of the photography students, many of whom he and Gina mentor, but it obscures another significant photography show just two days after the students’ exhibition – his own.
Opening Friday, May 7, at Exposed, the Carmel photo gallery of Evynn LeValley and Rachael Short, it consists of new work, curated by Kim himself.
“Any artist should know their strongest work,” he says. The 16 photographs he’s chosen are a rich black and white, hung in his carefully chaotic studio, a rustic cabin of a workspace lined with photos, paintings and props. The photos are all of women, in a menagerie of poses, mounted on white matte, enclosed in custom black wooden frames, encased in glass.
One model lovingly cradles a black hat, her skin lit with a healthy sheen. They are organic photographs, composed with geometrical precision, and the women in them are all proudly, sensually nude.
“Americans have tended to be prudish,” Kim says. “But I try to [capture], not in a sexual way, the wonderment and the glory of women.”
He photographed himself nude in order to “know what it’s like to be in front of a camera,” and for 15 years Gina stood in as his model. She’s stopped modeling, but shows up in most every other facet of their brand, Weston Photography, organizing education outreach, workshops, visits to Wildcat Hill, speaking engagements, the website. When Kim casually mentions that there’s currently no local gallery representing him, Gina adds a jolt of clarity.
“Not even Weston Gallery,” she says of the gallery run by Kim’s mother-in-law. “I think the last time Kim showed there was in the ‘90s.” So his own work is seen fleetingly, in the span of shows, talks, workshops and the website (www.kimweston.com). Which makes his show at Exposed that much more special, and the couple’s efforts promoting young peoples’ work more selfless.
“The kids get so excited when [their work] is on the gallery wall,” he says. “It’s in its finished state, the circle of completion.”
Maybe “completion” isn’t the right word. Maybe it’s just the beginning, again, of a cycle that will continue in the coming years and the future works of these young photographers, when they too have learned enough to pass it on.