Day 301 of Colourisation Project – March 4
Challenge: to publish daily a colourised photo that has some significance around the day of publication.
American photographer, Margrethe Mather, best known for her association with legendary photographer, Edward Weston, was instrumental in transforming photography into a modern art form yet she was largely forgotten at the time of her death.
As Weston’s mentor, lover and muse, the uninhibited Mather was probably the greatest influence on the development of his early career. Together as emerging artists, they formed an influential collaboration that helped shape the history of twentieth-century photography in America.
However, despite her own impressive body of work, which Weston encouraged her to exhibit, Mather’s career was always overshadowed by Weston’s massive reputation. Their partnership lasted 10 years until Weston departed for Mexico in 1923 with aspiring Italian photographer, Tina Modotti who also became his lover and muse.
Up until then, Mather was one of the best known female photographers in America. Once at the center of the burgeoning bohemian scene in Los Angeles, Mather fell into obscurity while Weston went on to become a major Modernist photographer. More daring and innovative than Weston, she lacked his self-discipline or the drive necessary to succeed in the larger world.
With her health in decline, she continued to take photographs sporadically until the early 1940s when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Never one for self-promotion, it appears she turned her back on photography altogether at this time. She became involved with George Lipton, an antiques dealer, whom she lived with for the remainder of her life.
In the early 1950s, recalling the greatest influences on his career, Weston admitted that Mather was “the first important person in my life.” Unfortunately, Weston burned his journals from his early days of living and working with Mather in Los Angeles, and what is known about her is truly scant. There is also very little record of her photographic output.
Born Emma Caroline Youngren, in Salt Lake City, Utah, on this day, March 4, 1886, Mather remains an enigmatic figure as little is known of her early life or why she changed her name. She did reveal to a friend that she’d been a child prostitute and that she had to leave Salt Lake City when her activities were found out. In 1906 at the age of 20, Mather made her way to San Francisco, where she continued to work as a prostitute before moving to Los Angeles in 1912 and getting involved in the Los Angeles Camera Club and with a young but married, Edward Weston.
She died on Christmas day, 1952, from multiple sclerosis at the age of 66. The official death record stated her name as “Margaret Lipton” and her occupation as “housewife.” I think it fairly safe to suggest she would not have approved of that description.
“If it doesn’t look right, it isn’t right,” ~ Margrethe Mather