UCSC receives $1 million gift of photographs by acclaimed American photographer Brett Weston

UC Santa Cruz has received a major donation of photographs by acclaimed American photographer Brett Weston (1911-1993), valued at more than $1 million. The photographs are a gift from Oklahoma collector Christian Keesee, who acquired the Brett Weston Estate in 1996 and describes Weston as "one of the true American masters of photography."

The gift enhances the university's substantial holdings of contemporary photography and greatly expands its photographic collection of the Central Coast's dynastic Weston family. The University Library's Special Collections photo holdings were initiated at UC Santa Cruz in the late 1960s with the donation of more than 800 project prints by Edward Weston, Brett's father.

"These photographs are a cultural resource for Central California," noted Christine Bunting, head of Special Collections at UC Santa Cruz. "Christian Keesee's extraordinary and generous gift significantly enriches the research and viewing opportunities we offer to the campus community and the public that is interested in the development of contemporary American photography."

Bunting added that the donation makes the UC Santa Cruz library among the strongest repositories for Brett Weston materials. "Mr. Keesee has only made gifts previously to such select institutions as the J. Paul Getty Museum and the Center for Creative Photography," she said.

While a teenager, Brett Weston began taking photographs at his father's side in Mexico, and he went on to forge a distinguished independent career that spanned seven decades. Weston's work has been exhibited and collected by major international museums, and he was a recipient of both Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Arts awards. He traveled extensively, but was always drawn back to the Carmel region where, in the 1950s, he returned to be with his ailing father and to print his father's most important negatives.

The gift to Special Collections includes Weston's gelatin silver print photographs dating from the 1940s to the 1980s, and the work represents a number of different aesthetic issues that the artist explored. Early documentary work, views of New York City, Mexican architecture, naturalistic depictions of California's Monterey Peninsula coast, abstractions based on the natural world, and the late Hawaiian botanicals are all included, along with a very special collection of portraits of Edward Weston taken in the 1930s and 1940s.

For more information, contact Christine Bunting at UC Santa Cruz's Special Collections: (831) 459-2547, specoll@library.ucsc.edu