In 1975, Alex Webb found himself at a creative impasse in his photography. His black and white photographs of the American social landscape appeared to be lacking direction. Consequently, that year, he embarked on two transformative journeys—one along the U.S.-Mexico Border and another to Haiti—locations that altered his perspective as both a photographer and a human being. In contrast to the muted hues of his New England upbringing, these places pulsated with the vibrancy of life on the doorstep and in the streets, radiating an energy and vitality that captivated his curiosity. Three years later, while continuing his black and white work in the Caribbean and along the U.S.-Mexico border, he became aware of something missing: the brilliant reds and vibrant yellows of these regions. Consequently, he made the switch to color photography. For approximately thirty years, he delved deeper into Mexico, Latin America, the Caribbean, as well as Istanbul and briefly in India, predominantly working with color. When he did turn his lens to the United States, it was often at the nation’s peripheries—in Florida and along the U.S.-Mexico border.
However, in 2010, after exploring the world, Alex Webb felt a renewed readiness to confront his own country once more. This journey began with a photograph taken in Erie, Pennsylvania, during a cross-country trip. It continued to evolve with a collaborative book project in Rochester, New York, titled Memory City, which he created with his wife and creative partner, Rebecca Norris Webb. An experimental trip to Indiana, initially geared toward exploring the Rust Belt, took an unexpected turn when he met a Nigerian woman from Houston who informed him that Houston had the largest population of ex-pat Nigerians in the world after London. This revelation led to a visit to Houston, and after working there, he realized his desire to focus on the complexities of U.S. cities. Since then, he’s explored roughly twenty cities and co-authored another book with Rebecca, titled Brooklyn: The City Within, celebrating their home borough. In the coming years, he intends to continue photographing U.S. cities and collaborating on a new project with Rebecca Norris Webb within this country.
The photographs featured in this exhibition span four decades, from Alex Webb’s early wanderings in the United States—in Florida and along the US-Mexico Border—to his more recent explorations of U.S. cities.
About the Author
Born in San Francisco in 1952, Alex Webb pursued his studies in History and Literature at Harvard University while honing his photography skills at the Carpenter Center for the Arts. He has authored over 15 books, including “Istanbul: City of a Hundred Names” (2007), “The Suffering of Light,” a collection of three decades of his color work published by Aperture (1st ed., 2011), and “La Calle: Photographs from Mexico” (2016). He frequently collaborates with his wife and creative partner, poet and photographer Rebecca Norris Webb. Notable joint projects include “Violet Isle: A Duet of Photographs from Cuba,” also exhibited at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, in 2011, “Brooklyn: The City Within” (2019), and “Waves” (2022). An updated and expanded version of his limited-edition artist book “Dislocations” (1998, Harvard Film Studies Center) is set to be published in the fall of 2023 by Aperture.
Alex has exhibited at museums across the world, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego. His work is part of the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, N.Y., and the Guggenheim Museum, N.Y. In 1979, Alex became a full member of Magnum Photos. Over the years, he has been honored with various awards and grants, including a Hasselblad Foundation Grant in 1998, a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2007, and National Endowment for the Arts grants in 1990 and 2019 (the latter in collaboration with R.N.W.).
Wanderings: Forty Years of Photographs in the U.S. by Alex Webb
until October 27th
Stephen Daiter Gallery Chicago, IL
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