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In 1941, the Limited Editions Club of New York invited photographer Edward Weston to illustrate its deluxe edition of Walt Whitman’s epic poem Leaves of Grass. The commission inspired Weston and his wife, Charis, to take a cross-country trip, throughout the South, the Mid-Atlantic states, New England, and back to California, in their trusty Ford, which they nicknamed “Walt.” Weston’s photographs from this project—mostly made with large, 8 x 10 camera—are exceptionally wide-ranging, with a particular focus on urban and man-altered landscapes. Although he never wanted his images to literally reflect Whitman’s text, Weston did relate to the poet’s plainspoken style and his emphasis on the broad spectrum of human experience. Weston wrote of the Whitman book: “I do believe . . . I can and will do the best work of my life. Of course I will never please everyone with my America—wouldn’t try to.”

 

Above: Edward Weston, Charis and Our Camp, Galveston, Texas, 1941. Photograph, gelatin silver print. The Lane Collection.


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With support from The Bruce and Laura Monrad Fund for Exhibitions.