In 1975, I reached a kind of dead end in my photography. The black and white photographs I’d been taking of the American social landscape seemed to be going nowhere. As a result, I took two trips that year—one to the U.S.-Mexico Border, one to Haiti—places that fundamentally changed me, both as a photographer and as a human being. Compared to the gray-brown reticence of my New England background, these places exuded a sense of life as lived on the stoop and in the street, a kind of energy and vitality that intrigued and fascinated me. Three years later, having continued to work in the Caribbean and along the U.S.-Mexico border in black and white, I realized something was missing: I wasn’t dealing with the brilliant reds and vibrant yellows of these places. As I result, I turned to color. Then, for some thirty years, I continued to work in color—deeper into Mexico and Latin America, more in the Caribbean, as well as in Istanbul and a bit in India. And when I did photograph seriously in the United States, it was on the edges of the country—in Florida and along the U.S.-Mexico border.
In 2010, however, after having traveled the world, I realized that perhaps I was finally ready to confront my own country again. It began with a photograph I took in Erie, Pennsylvania, on a cross-country trip. It coalesced further with a collaborative book on Rochester, New York, called Memory City, which I created with my wife and creative partner, Rebecca Norris Webb. I took an experimental trip to Indiana, thinking that maybe I was starting to work on series in the Rust Belt. However, a chance meeting with a Nigerian woman from Houston, who told me that Houston had the largest population of ex-pat Nigerians in the world after London, prompted a visit to that city. After working in Houston, I realized that I wanted to focus on U.S. cities in all their complexities. Since then, I’ve visited some twenty cities, as well as produced another collaborative book with Rebecca, Brooklyn: The City Within, on our home borough. Over the next few years, I will continue to photograph U.S. cities as well as work on a new joint project with Rebecca Norris Webb in this country.
The photographs in this exhibition span some forty years, from my early wanderings in the United States—in Florida and along the US-Mexico Border—to my more recent explorations of U.S. cities. —Alex Webb
Alex Webb was born in San Francisco in 1952. He majored in History and Literature at Harvard University, studying photography at the Carpenter Center for the Arts. Webb has published more than 15 books, including Istanbul: City of a Hundred Names (2007), The Suffering of Light, a collection of some thirty years of his color work, published by Aperture (1st ed., 2011) and La Calle: Photographs from Mexico (2016). He frequently collaborates with wife and creative partner, poet and photographer Rebecca Norris Webb. Recent 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). A new book, an updated and expanded version of his limited-edition artist book Dislocations (1998, Harvard Film Studies Center), will be published in the fall of 2023 by Aperture.
Alex has exhibited at museums worldwide including the Whitney Museum of American Art, the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego. His work is in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, N.Y., and the Guggenheim Museum, N.Y. Alex became a full member of Magnum Photos in 1979. He has received numerous 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 with R.N.W.).