LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph

About Alex Webb

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 he’d reached a dead end with the black and white photos he’d been shooting in New England and around New York. That’s when he happened upon a copy of The Comedians, the Graham Greene novel set in the violent world of Papa Doc’s 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 Webb’s shift to color. Today Webb is widely recognized as one of the most important and influential color photographers in the last four decades.

“I only know how to approach a place by walking. For what does a street photographer do but walk and watch and wait and talk, and then watch and wait some more, trying to remain confident that the unexpected, the unknown, or the secret heart of the known awaits just around the corner.” – Alex Webb

Webb’s 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–Webb’s images are brimming with color, movement, and life. “I’m 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. He’s 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. He’s 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.


About Geoff Dyer

Geoff Dyer is the author of four novels: Paris Trance, The Search, The Colour of Memory, and, most recently, Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi. A selection of essays entitled Otherwise Known as the Human Condition was published in the US in April 2011 and has been shortlisted for the National Book Critic’s Circle Award for Criticism. His most recent book, Zona, about Andrei Tarkovsky’s film Stalker, was published in February 2012 by Pantheon.

“You can spot Dyer’s antecedents and influences…but not his literary children, because his work is so restlessly various that it moves somewhere else before it can gather a family.” –James Wood, The New Yorker

Dyer has written five other genre-defying titles: But Beautiful, “a semi-fictional rhapsody about jazz” which was awarded the Somerset Maugham Prize, The Missing of the Somme, Out of Sheer Rage, Yoga For People Who Can’t Be Bothered To Do
and The Ongoing Moment which was the winner of the ICP Infinity Award for writing on photography. He is the co-editor, with Margaret Sartor, of What Was True: The Photographs and Notebooks of William Gedney. His many awards include the E. M. Forster Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2006 and a Lannan Literary Fellowship in 2003. He is a Fellow in the Royal Society of Literature. In 2009, Dyer was named GQ Writer of the Year.

Geoff Dyer was born in Cheltenham, England, in 1958. He was educated at Corpus Christi College, Oxford and currently resides in London.