Weston first met Lerner in Los Angeles four years prior to this sitting. At the time, she was the executive secretary to E. L. Doheny, a California oil magnate, as well as a member of the Young Socialists’ League (Conger, Edward Weston; Photographs, fig. 168/1925). Lerner was intellectually adept, ran in his circles, and was quite charming.
Weston did not immediately propose a portrait session in his studio. It was not until 1925, the year Weston returned from his extended stay in Mexico, when the two reunited for a session. 'I have that kindly feeling towards him,' Lerner confessed in a letter ahead of Weston’s arrival, 'so that to hear of his good fortune was a pleasure' (Beth Gates Warren, Artful Lives, J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 2011, p. 263).
Weston was likewise enchanted by Lerner, commenting in a letter on 'the full bloom of Miriam’s body—responsive and ever-stimulating' (12 November, 1925, Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley). The series of images produced during their collaboration—only 5 negatives total—still stands as one of Weston’s most successful, partially for being among the first bodies of work Weston produced upon his return from Mexico.
Indeed, Mexico had a deep impact on Weston, enriching his knowledge of the arts, culture and politics, especially through the Socialist prism of his fellow artists and poets living in Mexico at the time, from Frida Kahlo to Jean Charlot. Several months later, back in Mexico briefly, he sent several unmounted proofs to Lerner, commenting, “from our last sitting—or was it ‘lying’? … They have been well liked by Charlot—Diego—Tina and others—especially the twisted torso.” Upon his return to California, he ceded that he was at the beginning of 'a new period in my approach and attitude towards photography'.
The images of Lerner are all notable for their high degree of cropping, focusing on the hands and torso of his subject. This particular print is mounted, signed and dated, and is one of only seven known prints. There is mirroring in the dark areas with the effect of creating a silver halo around the subject. Other vintage prints are at CCP, Tucson; the Boston MFA, Lane Collection; Worcester Art Museum; Santa Cruz Art Museum; and J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.