I was reading my New York Times this morning, and in the obituary section, I see one of the most famous nudes in photography. That carefully composed nude of Charis Wilson by her then lover, Edward Weston:
Charis died last Friday at the age of 95. She was an amazing woman, and there is no question that she helped Edward Weston enormously. He very likely would never had gotten a Guggenheim grant without her writing it. Charis' "girl-next-door" beauty and Edward's photographic genius became a synergy that possibly was Weston's best period of work. She was his muse, his model, and collaborator. Who has looked at the image above and not fallen in love with it? A chaste yet sensual image, it's probably the most accessible nude photograph. One of many that Edward took, and unlike a pepper, needs no interpretation.
Charis and Edward have been the subject of a number of books by others, but it was her autobiography that told the real story. Through Another Lens My Years With Edward Weston by Charis Wilson and Wendy Madar tells the story from the woman that was there. One cannot help feel a little sad about the parting of Edward and Charis, but she had outgrown Edward, and Charis moved on to another life, and a very long one at that.
I was greatly moved by a recent documentary and hearing Charis' voice tell her story was riveting. At her advanced age, she retained the grace that she seemingly always had. If you are interested in seeing that excellent DVD, Eloquent Nude is available online for $25. There is also an interview with Charis from 1982 at the Smithsonian Archives.
Charis Wilson may have passed on corporeally, but she'll never grow old. That, is the beauty of photography.