Alex Webb arrived on the scene at a moment when photographers were looking for new ways of seeing and working in color. While most photojournalism was still being done in black and white in the late 1970s, Webb felt like heʼd reached a dead end with the black and white photos heʼd been shooting in New England and around New York. Thatʼs when he happened upon a copy of The Comedians, the Graham Greene novel set in the violent world of Papa Docʼs Haiti. The novel inspired Webb to board a plane to Port-au-Prince, “a world of emotional vibrancy and intensity.” The trip transformed Webb and his photography. It spurred him to explore the Caribbean and the U.S.- Mexico border, places defined by light and heat and activity; capturing those elements prompted Webbʼs shift to color. Today Webb is widely recognized as one of the most important and influential color photographers in the last four decades.
Webbʼs photos tell stories. Some contain entire novels. In one, a helicopter hovers in the background as U.S. Border Patrol agents take immigrants into custody. In another, a young girl in Mexico is suspended mid-air above a dark swimming pool with black plumes of smoke rising from the industrial skyline behind her. Battered cars and dusty bare feet, shadows and silhouettes, dogs and roosters, soccer balls and upside-down kids–Webbʼs images are brimming with color, movement, and life. “Iʼm always playing with that line,” Webb has said, “adding something more, yet keeping it short of chaos.” Over the last forty years, he has found that line all over the world, from Havana to Istanbul. Sometimes the action is fractured by jutting poles, window sills, mirrors, and concrete staircases. Guest curator Vince Musi puts it this way: Webb is tuned in to “the wavelength of the street where he is relentless in the pursuit of imagery.”
Born in San Francisco in 1952, Alex Webb has been a part of exhibitions all over the world. Heʼs won dozens of awards, including the Leopold Godowsky Color Photography Award in 1988, the Leica Medal of Excellence in 2000, and the Guggenheim Fellowship in 2007. His work is in the collections of the Museum of Fine Art, Houston; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY; and the Guggenheim Museum, NY. He joined Magnum Photos in 1976, and since then, his photographs have appeared in Time Magazine, Life, The New York Times Magazine, National Geographic Magazine, and more. Heʼs published nine books–most recently, The Suffering of Light, a collection that spans thirty years of work. He is currently collaborating on a project in the US with his wife, the photographer Rebecca Norris Webb.
The Suffering of Light
June 1-29, 2012
Second Street Gallery