The Four Generations of Wildcat Hill

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by Tammy Neal

Wildcat Hill is nestled amidst beautiful landscapes of flowers and cypress trees, bathed in Pacific breezes that sweep through the Carmel Highlands, and is home to the celebrated Weston family. Their legacy begins with Edward Weston, a humble family man and photographer of unequaled talent, who was dedicated to his four talented sons, devoted to his sister, Mary, and eternally passionate toward his collection of friends, students, and lovers. Their homestead, Wildcat Hill, was built in 1938 for Edward and his wife, Charis, by his son, Neil, for a modest $1000. Edward resided in this humble abode until his death in 1958.

At 16, Edward was given a Bull’s-Eye Kodak camera by his father, and his passion for photography took flight. Edward made a name for himself traveling the world, becoming a major American photographer of the early to mid-20th century. He became known for seeking beauty, perfection, and emotionally-charged images of natural forms, including landscapes and nudes. His work influenced a generation of American photographers.

Brett Weston, eldest son of Edward, followed in his father’s footsteps as a photographer known for his high contrast and abstract imagery. He chose sea plants tangled along the ocean’s shore as his subjects, concentrating on close-ups and abstracted details, but his prints reflected a preference for high contrast that reduced his subjects to pure form.

Born in 1953, Kim Weston, grandson of Edward, nephew of Brett, son of Cole Weston, is known as the master of fine art nude photography. He knew by age six that photography was something he wanted to do. Kim learned his craft assisting his father in the darkroom making gallery prints from his grandfather Edward’s original negatives. Kim also worked for years as an assistant to his uncle Brett, whose bold, abstract photographs rank as some of the finest examples.

Zach Weston, son of Kim Weston, was born in 1990, and is the fourth artistic generation branching off the Weston tree. He grew up on Wildcat Hill surrounded by iconic photographs created by his relatives. Zach was moved by this medium and has sharpened his vision by photographing the nude figure, still life, and abstract forms.

Kim is excited to curate an exhibition at the Steinbeck Center with his son, Zach. Weston: Four Generations 1886-2013 celebrates their 100-year anniversary. This presentation will take place March 10-May 31, 2014 and will bring the images, art, and artifacts of Edward, Brett, Kim, and Zach Weston together for an intimate look  at one of the renowned families of photography.

This exhibit will also present new works produced by recipients of the Weston Scholarship. Since 2004, The Weston Scholarship has awarded 157 scholarships to Monterey County students of traditional black and white photography.

Their workshops are mostly held at their home on Wildcat Hill,  but occasionally, they go on location to places like California missions San Juan Bautista and San Miguel. They recently held a workshop in Paris, where they took 11 students and three models.

The “little house with the big mood” is what they call Bodie House at Wildcat Hill. Enveloped in history, the original cedar single-wall construction building is where Kim and his wife, Gina, reside. “It’s like living in a museum,” says Kim, describing several artifacts including a desk, Edward’s day books, and the darkroom Edward loved to print in.

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