Although Edward Weston was exposed to the work of the painter and printmaker José Clemente Orozco (1885-1949) while living in Mexico, the two artists did not know one another well. When Orozco was traveling in Northern California in 1930, Weston expressed in his daybook a desire to spend more time with him and was delighted when Orozco, along with his agent, Alma Reed (1889-1966), arrived in Carmel for a visit. The two artists looked at, and admired, each other's creations, and before Orozco left town, Weston made a series of portraits of him. Shot relatively quickly and without the aid of a tripod in the failing light of evening, Weston's pictures of Orozco convey the intensity of both the subject and the photographer. Weston described this image as one of his finest portraits, recording on the verso of this print, which he gave to Orozco, “To Jose Clemente Orozco / I believe that in this portrait / I have recorded something in you / that I deeply felt – / Edward / Carmel – July 1950.” Orozco, too, must have admired this portrait, which capitalized on reflected light on his glasses to accentuate his piercing eyes, for he sent word back to Weston that it was the first time he had known himself in a photograph.
The Orozco visit was important to Weston for other reasons as well, for Reed offered to handle his and Orozco's work exclusively and invited him to exhibit his photographs in a one-man show at her gallery, the Delphic Studios. Weston enthusiastically accepted the offer, and this became his first important showing in New York City. Also in 1930, Weston resolved not to sign retouched portraits anymore and began numbering his prints in editions of fifty, although he rarely, if ever, made that many examples from a single negative. In 1932, Merle Armitage (1895-1975), an impresario who had promoted and collected Weston's work since the early 1920s, published a book on him. The Art of Edward Weston, which was one of the earliest monographs devoted to an American photographer, contained this picture of Orozco.
Brett Abbott. Edward Weston, In Focus: Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2005), 62. ©2005, J. Paul Getty Trust.