Weston, having been born in Chicago, was raised with typical, well-grounded, mid-western values. On his 16th birthday, his father gave him a Kodak camera with which he started what would become his lifetime vocation. During the summer of 1908, Weston met Flora May Chandler, a schoolteacher who was seven years older than he was. The following year the couple married and in time they had four sons.
Weston and his family moved to Southern California and opened a portrait studio on Brand Boulevard, in the artsy section of Glendale, California, called Tropico. His artistic skills soon became apparent and he became well known for his portraits of famous people, such as Carl Sandburg and Max Eastman. In the autumn of 1913, hearing of his work, Margrethe Mather, a photographer from Los Angeles, came to his studio, where Weston asked her to be his studio assistant. It didn’t take long before the two developed a passionate, intimate relationship. Both Weston and Mather became active in the growing bohemian cultural scene in Los Angeles. She was extremely outgoing and artistic in a most flamboyant way. Her bohemian sexual values were new to Weston’s conventional thinking, but Mather excited him and presented him with a new outlook that he found enticing. Mather was beautiful, and being bisexual and having been a high-class prostitute, was delightfully worldly. Mather's uninhibited lifestyle became irresistible to Weston and her photography took him into a new and exciting art form. As Mather worked and overtly played with him, she presented a lifestyle that was in stark contrast to Weston’s conventional home life, and he soon came to see his wife Flora as a person with whom he had little in common.
Weston expanded his horizons but tried to keep his affairs with other women a secret. As he immersed himself further into nude photography, it became more difficult to hide his new lifestyle from his wife. Flora became suspicious about this secret life, but apparently suffered in silence. One of the first of many women who agreed to model nude for Weston was Tina Modotti. Although Mather remained with Weston, Tina soon became his primary model and remained so for the next several years. There was an instant attraction between Tina Modotti, Mather and Edward Weston, and although he remained married, Tina became his student, model and lover. Richey soon became aware of the affair, but it didn’t seem to bother him, as they all continued to remain good friends. The relationship Tina had with Weston could definitely be considered “cheating,” since knowledge of the affair was withheld as much as possible from his wife Flora May.
Perhaps his wife knew and condoned this new promiscuous relationship, since she had also endured the intense liaison with Margrethe Mather. Tina, Mather and Weston continued working together until Tina and Weston suddenly left for Mexico in 1923.
As a group, they were all a part of the cozy, artsy, bohemian society of Los Angeles, which was where they were introduced to the then-fashionable, communistic philosophy.