Brett Weston, Sandbar, Glen Canyon, Utah, 1960

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Brett Weston (1911-1993), Sandbar, Glen Canyon, Utah, 1960, gelatin  silver print. Middlebury College Museum of Art. Gift from the Christian Keesee Collection, 2016.049.

screen-shot-2016-12-16-at-7-50-56-amBrett Weston first visited Glen Canyon in 1959, at that time the site of a proposed dam for water storage and hydroelectric power. Unlike Eliot Porter, whose photographs of the canyon became an important vehicle for the Sierra Club, Weston’s photographs did not play a role in the environmental debate that surrounded the dam project. Rather, they were quiet studies of trees, light, and water that fit Weston’s larger project of finding beauty by looking closely at often overlooked details of the natural world.

In this photograph, Weston emphasizes the shimmer of light on the surface of the water, offset by the subtle pattern of sand along the edge. The sharp contrast between highlights and shadows adds drama to the simple subject. As Weston put it in 1982, “It’s what one’s eye sees and isolates. It’s that simple for me. I’m looking for form and design. My theory is that it’s in my genes.”1