Sioux City, Iowa
Photographer Thomas Weir is known for his landscapes, figure studies of nude women set in nature and photographs of rock bands. Born in Sioux City, Iowa in 1935, Weir grew up in Des Moines, Iowa, where he attended local schools. He became interested in photography around the age of twelve, working with his mother’s box camera. After graduating from high school he studied engineering at Iowa State University but did not graduate. Weir enlisted in the Army in 1957, serving for two years in Berlin. After his discharge he returned to Des Moines, where he worked at a variety of jobs and learned more about photographic printing and pictorial photography. In 1962 Weir and his then girl friend went to San Francisco; they separated after a few years. He met his current wife Renee in 1965; she was the model for some of his best-known photographs. Weir worked as a free-lance photographer with a focus on the music business and the bands of the day. His photograph of the Grateful Dead is on the back cover of the band’s 1967 album “Anthem of the Sun” and his photo of the band and many friends from Olompali Ranch in Marin County is on the back of the album “Aoxomoxoa.” Other album cover photographs include one of Janis Joplin (1943-1970) on the back cover of Big Brother & the Holding Company’s 1968 album “Cheap Thrills,” and others for the Steve Miller Band’s 1968 album “Sailor” and the 1972 album “Gypsy Cowboy” by the New Riders of the Purple Sage. His photographs were used on four rock concert posters in 1967 and 1968, three for Avalon Ballroom concerts promoted by the Family Dog and one for a Fillmore Auditorium concert promoted by Bill Graham (1931-1991); three of the posters featured his studies of female nudes. He exhibited his work in San Francisco galleries and elsewhere in the Bay Area. His photographic essay “The Virgin Forest,” published in 1970 in “Avant-Garde” magazine, included a photograph of Renee lying nude in a field, which also appeared on the cover of the last issue of the “San Francisco Oracle” in 1968. His works often involved circular images shot with a wide-angle lens using high-contrast film, producing works described by one reviewer as “sensuously beautiful.” In 1969 Weir moved to Inverness, Calif., on the Point Reyes peninsula. Much of his work was the photography of paintings and other works of art by other artists. Weir and his wife moved from Inverness to other Marin County cities in the decades after 1985. His photographic career waned as film manufacturers abandoned photographic chemicals and film with the development of digital photography, which Weis never embraced, and he moved on to other pursuits. He and his wife now reside in Petaluma, Calif. (TNB 3/2017) Selected bibliography: Leibovitz, Annie, ed. Shooting Stars, pp. 148-151. San Francisco: Straight Arrow Books, 1973. Putz, John. The Body and the Lens: Photography 1839 to the Present, pp. 118-119. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1995.