Charis Wilson, May 5, 1914 – November 20, 2009

“Edward and I both agreed with the view of a Greek friend of ours, Jean Varda, who was fond of saying there were three perfect shapes in the world … the hull of a boat, a violin and a woman’s body.” 
– Charis Wilson

I’ve spoken highly and often about my most influential photographer and the model who quite possibly had the biggest impact on photography as an art form. Charis Wilson has by far been the most inspirational art model for myself and the art world. She died just a few weeks ago. She was 95. For myself, she was the consummate model, perfect in every way. I know, I’m sure she had flaws, but I can’t help but to enjoy the woman’s spirit, drive, ambition, talent, and her devotion. Most of us know her as a model, but she was a prolific writer, as well. In fact, the reason I say she quite possibly had the biggest impact on photography as an art form is due to her role in helping Weston get a Guggenheim Fellowship.

    “The Guggenheim Fellowships are American grants that have been awarded annually since 1925 by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation to those ‘who have demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts’.” 

As I am sure most of you already know, it was Charis who wrote the four-page narrative that won the Fellowship for Weston, despite the fact that Weston assumed credit for it. And it was also Charis who did all the writing and documentation for the 180 day, sixteen thousand mile trip they made throughout the western U.S. Weston’s talent had nothing to do with writing. Charis therefore took up much of his work in editing articles and even wrote in his name. I guess it was about a year or so ago, when I finally got my own copy of the DVD, Eloquent Nude: The Love and Legacy of Edward Weston and Charis Wilson. You can do a search on my blog for my initial reviews of this DVD. To listen to Charis give the details of her experience in her own voice was amazing to me. I loved her recounts of her first meeting Weston. She provided vivid detail as to her feelings and emotions and could recall many of the circumstances surrounding all of those special events. She was honest and raw. She did not try to be “pretty and lady-like”. She told it to you straight. You gotta respect a woman for that. And at 95, I felt grateful that she was so forthcoming in sharing. Amazing woman.