No painter or sculptor can be wholly abstract. We cannot imagine forms not already existing in nature -we know nothing else. Take the extreme abstractions of Brancusi; they are all based on natural forms. I have often been accused of imitating his work -and I most assuredly admire, and may have been ‘inspired’ by it -which really means I have the same kind of (inner) eye, otherwise Rodin or Paul Manship might have influenced me. Actually I have proved, through photography, that Nature has all the ‘abstract’ (simplified) forms, Brancusi or any other artist can imagine. With my camera I go direct to Brancusi’s source. I find ready to use, select and isolate, what he has to ‘create’.
But photography is not all seeing in the sense that the eyes see. Our vision, a binocular one, is in a continuous state of flux, while the camera captures and fixes forever (unless the damn prints fade!) a single, isolated, condition of the moment. Besides, we use lenses of various focal lengths to purposely exaggerate actual seeing, and we often ‘overcorrect’ colour for the same reason. In printing we carry on our wilful distortion of fact by using contrasty papers which give results quite different from the scene or object as it was in nature.
This, we must agree, is all legitimate procedure: but it is not ‘seeing’ literally, it is done with a reason, with creative imagination.
I never try to limit myself by theories, I do not question right or wrong approach when I am interested or amazed -impelled to work. I do not fear logic, I dare to be irrational, or really never consider whether I am or not. This keeps me fluid, open to fresh impulse, free from formulae; and precisely because I have no formulae -the public who know my work is often surprised, the critics, who all, or most of them, have their pet formulae are disturbed. and my friends distressed.
I would say to any artist -don’t be repressed in your work -dare to experiment -Consider any urge -if in a new direction all the better -as a gift from the Gods not to be lightly denied by convention or a priori concept. Our time is becoming more and more bound by logic, absolute rationalism; this is a straitjacket I -it is the boredom and narrowness which rises directly from mediocre mass thinking.
The great scientist dares to differ from accepted ‘facts’ -think irrationally -let the artist do likewise. And photographers, even those, or especially those, taking new or different paths should never become crystallised in the theories through which they advance. Let the eyes work from inside out -do not imitate ‘photographic painting’, in a desire to be photographic !
Has this sounded like a sermon? I despise, sermons, preachers, so I hope not. Perhaps I am really talking to myself. I have done some dangerous reasoning at times, but fortunately something beyond reason steps in to save me.
— edward Weston, Daybooks”