Seema Weatherwax celebrated her 100th birthday in 2005, but she did not present her first photography show until five years ago. Here are eleven memorable images from her work in California during the 1940s, including pictures of Woody Guthrie, and shots of the 1945 Hollywood strike of film industry employees.
For decades the pictures remained in boxes. Weatherwax believed they had historic value, but it was not until Charles Hanson, archivist from the University of California at Santa Cruz, was helping to archive her collection and urged her to prepare a show that she agreed to display her work. She soon received an offer of help in printing the images from Jason Weston, great grandson of the photographer Edward Weston. Later they created a joint exhibit -- Focusing Through Time: a Unique Story of Friendship, Photography, and Collaboration -- can be found online at Seema Weatherwax & Jason Weston.
Weatherwax was born in the Ukraine in 1905 during a period of violent anti-Semitism throughout Russia. Her family escaped to England, where Seema was educated until she reached the age of 17, at which point she and her family emigrated to the United States. She hoped to find work in chemistry, which was the focus of her education, and answered an ad to work in a darkroom in hopes of using her chemistry skills. An interest in photography soon replaced the interest in chemestry, as she honed her skills in the darkroom, and later met Chan Weston, the eldest son of Edward Weston. Edward arranged an introduction to Ansel Adams, and Seema, now a proficient darkroom technician, ran his darkroom in Yosemite and worked with him in San Francisco. She was his assistant from 1938 through 1941, accompanying him and sometimes the aforementioned Edward Weston on photography trips on which she would take her camera. Although never a student of Adams', she developed a remarkably keen eye for photography, as demonstrated by this small sample of her work.
Show: A Life on the Left, by Sara Halprin, University of New Mexico
Seema Aissen Weatherwax Photographs, Stanford University Libraries, Special Collections