Thursday, April 24, 2003
Photo by Tim Barnwell: On the Job: Cole Weston teaching a workshop in Asheville, NC some 25 years ago.
Photography legend and longtime Carmel resident Cole Weston died Sunday at the age of 84, on Easter Sunday, the same day on which Ansel Adams died 19 years ago.
The last and youngest of Edward Weston''s four sons, Cole''s death leaves the Weston photographic legacy in the hands of his son Kim, one of his six children and a noted Carmel Highlands photographer.
Although he was best known internationally for his photographic work, particularly his early innovations in color photography as well as becoming the "keeper of the flame" for his father''s negatives upon the latter''s death in 1958, Cole Weston was also an actor, theater director, writer, sailor and one-time political candidate. His indefatigable energy, boundless optimism, generosity of spirit, and exasperating perfectionism were matched only by what one friend generously called "his gracious manner towards women," four of whom he married.
Cole grew up in Carmel, and was struck by the theater bug at a young age. After drama school in Seattle, he enlisted in the Navy during World War II, then became a photographer for Life magazine. In 1946 he returned to Carmel to set up a portrait studio--an unhappy experiment that ended when he ran for Congress in 1948 on the Independent Progressive party ticket. An inveterate liberal who was angered by the anti-Russian sentiments of Cold War America, Weston later wrote that his candidacy "was the object of a lot of Red-baiting, which scared off the portrait customers."
Weston started working with color photography in the late 1940s, and soon gave up black-and-white work. In 1958 he embarked on a 30-year career as the official printer of his father''s negatives; the two men''s pictures were often shown together over the years, sometimes joined by Kim''s work. He also gave numerous photography workshops around the world, including in the former Soviet Union. In 1974 he and his third wife Maggi opened the Weston Gallery, the first photographic gallery in Carmel.
Locally, Cole Weston is remembered fondly for his 50-year association with the Forest Theater Guild, of which he was president several times. He directed more than 30 plays at Carmel''s historic Outdoor Forest Theater, spearheaded a campaign in the early 1970s to stop the city from turning the theater into a corporation yard, and he physically built much of the Indoor Forest Theater, hauling in the concrete and other building materials himself.
Current Guild president Hamisch Tyler, who worked with Weston on many productions and considers him his mentor, recalls "his perseverance and insistence on the best you could get from people--he had an incredible eye for what he wanted on stage."
Weston directed "the best Of Mice and Men I''ve ever seen," Tyler says.
Cole Weston often said that the three loves of his life were photography, theater and sailing. Although advancing age made him give up the last two--his last theater gig was directing Thornton Wilder''s Our Town in the mid ''90s--he actively took pictures until he was 80, and conducted his last workshop this past October, at his Garrapata home, aided by Kim.
The Weston family will hold a private memorial for friends and family only. The Forest Theater Guild plans to organize a public memorial, Tyler says, and will also dedicate the coming season to him.