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Thread: My father's Clarinet teacher & Edward Weston

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    My father's Clarinet teacher & Edward Weston

    When my father retired he took up the Clarinet, which he had played during the Swing Band era many years earlier. He found a retired Clarinet player and started taking lessons. The teacher told my father that on the Clarinet, the most important thing is to have a good tone. “People will listen to just about anything you play, if your tone is beautiful”.

    Here’s an illustration of that principle, an Edward Weston portrait which I saw today for the first time. I doubt everyone would see this as a good portrait: it’s crooked, the lady is looking out of the photo, etc.

    It’s only a JPG file but there’s something extraordinary about the placement of tones next to one another: this was one of Weston’s magical powers and Brett had it too. The original must be very striking, especially as a super sharp 8x10 contact print.


    Bessie Jones, 1941
    Edward Weston

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    Tin Can's Avatar
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    Re: My father's Clarinet teacher & Edward Weston

    Thanks Ken,

    I have a lot of trouble figuring out tone. As in what viewers mean when they say 'look at those tones' or 'great tones". Once in a rare moon they might say that about one of my prints, but it just goes right over my head.

    I nod and say nothing.

    I hope to learn something in the replies.
    sin eater

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    Re: My father's Clarinet teacher & Edward Weston

    Oliver Gagliani had tones.

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    Re: My father's Clarinet teacher & Edward Weston

    sin eater

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    Re: My father's Clarinet teacher & Edward Weston

    I don't see anything wrong with that portrait. It's new to me, and I thank you for sharing it.
    Edward Weston knew exactly what he was doing; he could 'see' photographically as well as anyone who has ever lived. One part of that 'seeing' is knowing when tones work together, as here. He didn't do much explaining... he just showed it to us.

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    Re: My father's Clarinet teacher & Edward Weston

    The crooked lines show to me it's an authentic older building and also that photographer was breaking some of the type-a personality rules we associate with large format photography in terms of getting the lines right because we can, etc... It makes the photo more about the person than the mechanics. But the tones are great.. We who seek good tones see the mechanics in this, other people perhaps it silently adds overall quality, like the music teacher alluded to.

    The composition in contemporary terms is pretty much simple rule of thirds for head placement. The old style of composition which Weston would have known but neglected to mention could have been notan, where composition was the tones in a harmonious arrangement. Dow's book on this style of composition was widely read in the generation of Weston by regular art people. I'd also read into a bit and say it took on religious qualities or at least applied some religious style in that the subject is neatly within an alcove like a respected statue of a saint. Like she just stepped out of the (door) alcove to be real.

    As a photographer with B&W film, I have to keep it simple... One developer, 1-2 films, and rare use of filters. Only then can I get an intuitive feel for what tones parts of the image will take on. If I were changing film and materials all the time, I wouldn't be reliable.

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    Re: My father's Clarinet teacher & Edward Weston

    Ken, I find it interesting that you post this, because of all the photographers who post images on this site, I recognize yours instantly because of your control of tonal values. Even with images that in other hands I might consider banal, when you have presented tham I immediately think, "wow, what attracted Ken are the infinite shades of black, white, and grey, and how they relate to each other."

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    Re: My father's Clarinet teacher & Edward Weston


    Oceano Dunes
    Brett Weston, 1984

    Again, this is only a digital file but at times is seems that Brett carried his father's mastery of tonality to an even higher level of sophistication.

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    Re: My father's Clarinet teacher & Edward Weston

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Lee View Post
    When my father retired he took up the Clarinet, which he had played during the Swing Band era many years earlier. He found a retired Clarinet player and started taking lessons. The teacher told my father that on the Clarinet, the most important thing is to have a good tone. “People will listen to just about anything you play, if your tone is beautiful”.

    Here’s an illustration of that principle, an Edward Weston portrait which I saw today for the first time. I doubt everyone would see this as a good portrait: it’s crooked, the lady is looking out of the photo, etc.

    It’s only a JPG file but there’s something extraordinary about the placement of tones next to one another: this was one of Weston’s magical powers and Brett had it too. The original must be very striking, especially as a super sharp 8x10 contact print.


    Bessie Jones, 1941
    Edward Weston
    Hi Ken,

    Thanks for the good thread. This is a seldom seen photo from the Whitman trip because the publisher chose not to include it in the book; or many other of his finest from the trip, much to Edward's disappointment. There is a print in the Lane Collection at the MFA in Boston, I believe.

    Adding to the characteristics you note in the photograph, is the fascinating story of Bessie Jones' life. A search should find an oral interview.

    As for Edward and Brett, they had an understanding of light. I believe the two photos (this and Brett's, Ocaeno) were taken on overcast days. And Brett, more than his dad, was intent on revealing form.

    This thread reminds me of your 2010 series, "These I like." Are you considering reviving it?

    Best,
    Merg

  10. #10

    Re: My father's Clarinet teacher & Edward Weston

    Short: There is nothing crooked. Everything' s straight. The cross is the key. And the old house a metaphor of a life with sun and rain.

    Long: You talk about "composition" but you mean "disposition" as a distribution of data on the surface of the picture. Whereas "composition" is a development in time, that is the result of successive perception, of the disposition, of course. Like a fugue of J.S. Bach in D major. The comparison with the clarinet is very good, imho.

    This composition starts (for me) with the brilliant, sparkling cross. It is framed by the collar. It amplifies the visual movement in direction of the plank contours, whereas the person itself stays vertically oriented in this amplification - as an amplification of the crosswise directions.

    The tones of the planks repeat the tone of the flesh and the clothing. This is an amplification, too. Vertical lamination of the planks repeat the vertical setting of the figure and the horizontal extensions of the planks repeat the universal claims of the branches of the cross.

    The figure or protagonist stays in the center and in the origin of this composition. The head, the collar: a bloomy blossom to the light, full of human kindness. It's a human being in which religious or at least good faith meets with the shaped reality of life. This meeting is a singularity, origin of an everlasting - perhaps jazzy - fugue in D major ...
    Last edited by Daniel Casper Lohenstein; 30-Apr-2019 at 00:24. Reason: writing too much
    4x5, 120, 135

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