Posts Tagged ‘Haiti’

TWO QUESTIONS: On Beginnings and Endings

June 1, 2010

We’re bidding farewell until next fall with TWO QUESTIONS about the beginnings and endings of photography books.  SERGE MAES, a Belgian photographer and psychologist who attended our Barcelona workshop this spring and is working on the long-term project, “Any Given Day,” asks us how photography books begin and how they evolve along the way. West Coast photographer, ALIA MALLEY, who’s attended two of our workshops–– one in the U.S. and one in Cuba –– asks us about endings, a question very much on her mind as she finishes her MFA and is exhibiting work from her series, “Southland,” at an L.A. gallery this summer.  (See below for more information about both Serge and Alia). –– Alex Webb & Rebecca Norris Webb

MAKING BOOKS:  ON BEGINNINGS AND MEANDERINGS

Alex Webb from "Istanbul: City of a Hundred Names"

SERGE MAES:  “Alex/Rebecca, could you elaborate on how your book projects have started out (did they start out with a vague idea, with a particular interest in a topic or place, with a preconceived aesthetic notion,…) and on any influences or decisions that may have changed the direction the projects were heading in?”

ALEX WEBB: I often am  unaware of the genesis of a project, sometimes remaining skeptical of its possibilities until I am well into the project.   The process of looking at the photographs, of playing with them, of making juxtapositions and sequences, usually leads me to begin to understand what it is that I am working on.  The process of photographing and editing  becomes a process of self-revelation, a simultaneous exploration of the world and the self.

To give you two examples:  my first book, Hot Light/Half-Made Worlds, began as an obsession, a passion for photographing in certain kinds of places — loosely speaking, the tropics — places where intense vibrant color seemed somehow embedded in the culture, unlike the gray-brown world of my New England background.  I had no intention of making a book when I began photographing  Haiti,  other parts of the Caribbean, northern Mexico, and sub-Saharan Africa.  But, as I started to look at the photographs that I had been producing in these places and began to put them side by side I began to realize that despite the vast cultural and historical differences between these various worlds there were links, links of emotion, links of sensation, links of atmosphere, that somehow allowed me to leap over cultural and historical differences and make a book that existed on another plane — a more poetic and atmospheric plane — in which though there were socio-political rumblings, they were only just that — rumblings.  The heart of the book lay somewhere else, in a more metaphysical realm.

Istanbul: City of a Hundred Names began somewhat differently.   I had a photographic assignment in 1998 to go to Turkey to photograph in several locations, including Istanbul.  When I arrived in Istanbul in 1998 I had a kind of revelation: I had returned to the city that I had visited 30 years earlier for a day with my family as a teenage photographer.  But whereas in 1968 I had been overwhelmed with the exoticism of a culture so unlike my own, in 1998 I found something strangely familiar, a kind of border.  In those intervening years I had been drawn to borders, places where cultures come together, sometimes easily, sometimes roughly.  Istanbul, both Asian and European, Eastern and Western, Islamic and secular was another kind of border.  I rapidly realized that I had to return to Istanbul and continue photographing, which I managed to do over the subsequent seven years.  So one could in fact say that the roots of the Istanbul book, unbeknownst to me at the time, lie in the trip that I made as a teenager in 1968.

Ultimately for the me, the process of creating a project remains somewhat mysterious.  Projects move forward on inexplicable happenings and impulses.  How they begin, how they end remains couched in enigma.  This is part of what I find exciting about the process.

REBECCA NORRIS WEBBMy current work-in-progress, My Dakota, started out as a photographic exploration of South Dakota, the sparsely populated Great Plains state where I grew up, and a place, to quote the Nebraskan photographer Wright Morris, where the Great Plains “…grew up in you.”  A year later, my brother died unexpectedly, and the project also evolved into an elegy for him.

How can My Dakota be about the American West and also be an elegy for my brother?  This is one of those questions that prod me and humble me.  I don’t know the answer.  I don’t know if I ever will.

I do know that the question itself has provoked me to reread some of my favorite elegies, not necessarily to find an answer, but hopefully to stumble upon a different way of looking at the question, perhaps viewing it from a “slant,” to quote Emily Dickinson.

So, between my photographic trips to South Dakota this past winter and spring, I’ve been rereading Emily Dickinson’s and Walt Whitman’s elegies.  In some of these elegies, Death seems to venture West along with the explorers and the prairie schooners.  In Whitman, Abraham Lincoln’s corpse heads West on the funeral train, and, in Dickinson’s famous elegy, “Because I could not stop for Death,” Death and the poet also journey West –– sharing the carriage with a third passenger, Immortality.

If nothing else, rereading these elegies reminds me of just how long the Western landscape has inhabited the American psyche – those wide open spaces, those fruited plains, those seemingly endless skies ––as a place of both death and hope, transience and immortality, whether we’re talking about Manifest Destiny in the 19th Century or the environmental movement today.

This meandering process –– being prodded by a question, rereading poetry, continuing to travel from New York to South Dakota to photograph–– has lead, if not to an answer to my question exactly, then at least to something unexpected: Lately I’ve managed to write a few spare lines, which may or may not accompany the My Dakota photographs.  Perhaps that’s as much of an answer as I can expect…

MAKING BOOKS:  ON ENDINGS

Rebecca Norris Webb from "My Dakota"

ALIA MALLEY:  Alex and Rebecca, I’ve been wondering, “How do you know when a project is “finished”…?”  It’s something I’ve been asking myself a lot recently, as I’m starting to work on a new project while still continuing to work on another project still.

RNW:  As with any relationship in your life, each photography project or book ends in its own way.  Some end more organically or naturally; others end rather abruptly or completely unexpectedly.  Each project has its own rhythm.

That said, I have found that there are a few signs that a book or project may be ending.  I often slow down at the end of a project, and don’t find myself taking as many photographs as at the beginning.  The curiosity and visual excitement ebb, too.  .If I happen to be working on another project simultaneously, that second project tends to pull at me more strongly than one I’ve nearly finished.

Right now, I’m in the midst of finishing the My Dakota project.  It’s been the most challenging project to date to complete for me, probably because it’s also my most personal project, since it’s an elegy for my brother.  I still feel something is missing in the sequence, but I’m not entirely sure what that is.  I suspect it may be the final sequence of the book itself, which, is quite different from my past two books whose middle sequences were the last I photographed.

I’ve gotten somewhat used to the notion that making books is ultimately a very intuitive process, and I am learning to trust this more and more.  For instance, a couple of weeks ago this line came to me, seemingly out of the middle of nowhere:  “In a deep loss, something inside you is broken, and slowly – through the cracks and the gaps and the jagged openings – you begin to see the light again.”

After I read this line during a slide talk in Toronto recently, one of the photographers in Alex’s and my workshop thoughtfully said to me:  “Maybe that’s the key to the ending of the book.  The light.  You end in the light.”  Her words made me smile.  She may very well be right.  If you’re open enough, books, I’m learning, try to let you know – often in rather roundabout ways — how and when they are finished with you.

AW: Knowing when a personal project is completed is one of the more difficult and challenging decisions I face as a photographer.  More than anything else, I rely on a kind of gut feeling — a sense of emotional completion.  But what that really means is inevitably elusive.  Different projects seem to have utterly different arcs of completion, arcs whose duration remains unpredictable.  I will give a couple of examples.

It wasn’t until the summer of 1987, a bit more than a year after I had been photographing post-Duvalier Haiti, that I began to sense that a Haiti book was in the making.  I started to put together a rough dummy of the work to try to understand what I had been doing, and how it might become a book.  That fall, as the November elections approached, I returned to Haiti.  As political tensions began to simmer, the country descended into a spiral of violence.  A reign of terror spread over the streets of Port au Prince, as dead bodies appeared in doorways each morning, burning barricades dotted the streets, and markets were torched.  Ultimately, the elections were destroyed, as paramilitary gunmen in Port au Prince shot down voters.  In Gonaives, where I was photographing, the gunmen blew up the town the night before.  No one dared go to the polls.

When I returned to the US a book on Haiti seemed utterly irrelevant.  What was the point of a book in the face of this violent destruction of Haiti’s aspirations toward democracy?  What was a book going to do?  But as time passed, as I looked at the pictures more, and especially after returning to Haiti for the next round of elections in January 1988 –  elections that were fundamentally fraudulent in installing the army’s candidate –  I began to sense that perhaps there was something in a book after all, some kind of document that tried to make sense of this troubled time.  A period of Haiti’s history — the cycle of electoral violence, from the fall of Duvalier to the installation of his short-lived successor Leslie Manigat  — had closed.  And I finally felt ready — emotionally as well as intellectually — to close this chapter of my relationship with Haiti as well.

With my project on the US-Mexico Border, however, I never entertained a sense of urgency of completion.  I photographed along the US-Mexico border for the first time in 1975, photographing in black and white.  For the next 26 years I continued to return to the border, shifting in 1979 from black and white to color.  Somehow, it was a project that I couldn’t complete — didn’t want to complete.  Other projects, other books — From the Sunshine State, Amazon, Dislocations — came and went.  It was only in 2001, after a trip to the Arizona border, that I was finally able to let go.

Completing a book cuts something off.  I  return to the same place without the same sense of obsession, without the same sense of passion.  For those 26 years I simply wasn’t willing to let go of the border.  I still occasionally wonder if I let go of the project at the right time.

SERGE MAES

Serge Maes from "Any Given Day"

I was born in 1976 in Sint-Niklaas, a small city in Belgium. About 8 years ago, I moved to Antwerp where I’ve been living ever since. I work as a clinical psychologist in a therapeutic community for people with personality disorders and in my own private practice.

Photography never held much interest for me until a few years ago, when my girlfriend who is a hobbyist photographer couldn’t come with me on a trip to Stockholm and asked me to take some pictures for her with a disposable camera she bought at the airport. Having only 24 pictures at my disposal I was very focused to get every picture right. Engaging the world in a visual way turned out to be such an involving experience that when I got back from Stockholm I decided to take up photography myself.

Among other things I’m working on a book project on city life with the working title “Any Given Day.” Photography to me is not so much about conveying a message as it is about the excitement of capturing that one fleeting moment in which everything seems to interconnect.

My website: www.statikon.com

ALIA MALLEY

Alia Malley from "Southland"

ALIA MALLEY (b.1973) was born in California, and raised in Portland, OR.  She received her BA in Critical Studies from USC School of Cinema Arts, and her MFA from UC Riverside in 2010.  She lives and works in Los Angeles.

Her series Southland won the 2010 Merck Award at the Darmstädter Tage der Fotografie, and will be shown at a solo exhibition at Sam Lee Galley, May 22-July 3, 2010.  She was a 2009 Runner Up at the Forward Thinking Museum/JGS, and a Finalist/Honorable Mention at the Newspace Center for Photography’s 2008 Juried Exhibition, curated by TJ Norris.  She has participated in group exhibitions including the 2009 CAA Los Angeles MFA Exhibition, curated by Alex Klein, and Sculpting Time at the Martin Art Gallery, Muhlenberg College, curated by Ara Osterweil. Her MFA thesis exhibition was on view at the California Museum of Photography, Riverside, CA until May 15, 2010.

www.aliamalley.com

TWO CITIES: TORONTO and NEW YORK

April 30, 2010

Alex Webb, Gonaives,Haiti, 2000

Hope you can join us on Tuesday, May 4th, at Ryerson University in TORONTO for our joint lecture, “Together and Apart,” which is one of four evening lectures featured during the first week in May at the MAGNUM WORKSHOP at THE CONTACT PHOTO FESTIVAL (Wednesday’s lecture is by Costa Manos, Thursday’s lecture is by Alec Soth, and Friday’s lecture is by Stuart Franklin; all lectures are at 7pm).

For our lecture, Alex will show work from his second book on Haiti (“Under a Grudging Sun”) and work from his seventh book, “Istanbul: City of a Hundred Names,” which Rebecca photo-edited.  Rebecca will show a selection of photographs from her first book, “The Glass Between Us,” as well as images from her work-in-progress in the American West, “My Dakota.”  We’ll also show work from our joint book on Cuba, “Violet Isle.”–Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb

Rebecca Norris Webb, Sheep Mountain, S.D., 2010

NEW YORK: Richard Sandler, Street Photographer and Filmmaker

If you’re in New York the first week in May, consider joining RICHARD SANDLER at the opening reception of his exhibition, “THE FORMER NEW YORK: Photographs from the 1980′s.” The reception is at the Millennium Film Workshop from 6-8pm on Thursday, May 6th, at 66 E. 4th St. (between 1st and 2nd Ave.) in the East Village.  Afterwards, there will be a free screening of Richard’s documentary film about the East Village, “Brave New York.”

Below is what Richard, an insightful and funny street photographer and filmmaker and one of my first teachers at ICP, has to say about “The Former New York” photographs.–Rebecca Norris Webb

Richard Sandler, "CC train," 1985

“The photographs in this show were made between 20 and 30 years ago and they depict a time that lives in limbo: they are too young to be the historical records of the fuzzy past, and way too old to resemble contemporary culture, now moving at warp speed. These pictures of the recent past reveal a time just before the proliferation of computers, cell phones, I pods, digital cameras and the internet; there was no way to filter the realities of the broken city, and there was no refuge in virtual space.

For better and for worse one was simply  ‘on the street,’ in public space, bathing in the comforts, (or terrors), of the human sea. In the New York subways, graffiti tags and spray painting exploded onto every surface and whole subway cars were ‘bombed,’ windows and all. Above and below ground, crime and crack were on the rise, rents were still cheap, Times Square and the East Village were drug riddled, while in mid-town the rich wore furs in unprecedented numbers, Ronald Reagan was president, ‘greed was good,’ and Y2K hysteria was approaching.

To some, the New York City of the recent past was a hell on Earth, yet to others it was one of New York’s most fertile artistic periods. I suggest that the meanings and motives of this period are not yet clear enough to articulate, and I offer these photographs as the marbled evidence of beauty mixing with decay, and as questions about city life itself. ” –Richard Sandler

TWO CITIES: Boston and Toronto

March 24, 2010

Alex Webb, Bombardopolis, Haiti, 1986, from "Under a Grudging Sun"

Please join us for our lecture, “Together and Apart,” in BOSTON on Wednesday, March 31st, at 6:30 pm at Northeastern University, a talk which is part of the school’s spring lecture series, “Interventions.”

The slide talk will feature a selection of photographs from our joint book, Violet Isle: A Duet of Photographs from Cuba. In addition, we’ll also discuss other bodies of work, including some books we’ve worked on together –– such as Istanbul: City of a Hundred Names (photographs by Alex; photo-edited by Rebecca) –– and some books we’ve worked on individually, such as The Glass Between Us (Rebecca’s first book), which explores the complicated relationship between people and animals in cities, and Under a Grudging Sun (Alex’s second book), which is a portrait of Haiti in a time of crisis.  The event is open to the public, and there will be a book signing afterwards with copies of Violet Isle available.–Alex and Rebecca

For location and other details please visit Magnum’s EVENTS PAGE.

Rebecca Norris Webb, Istanbul, 2003, from "The Glass Between Us"

Our TORONTO workshop the first week in May, which is part of the Magnum Workshops at the Contact Photography Festival, is now full.  If you’d like to have your name added to the waitlist, please visit Magnum’s website. Deadline is Wednesday, March 31st.–Alex and Rebecca

TWO CITIES: Montreal and Philadelphia

February 26, 2010

Alex Webb, Gonaives, Haiti, 1987

Please join Alex and Rebecca for their slide talk in MONTREAL on Monday, March 1st at Dawson College. The lecture is called “Together and Apart,” and is open to the public.  It will feature Alex’s work from Haiti, Rebecca’s work from the American West (including the recent photograph below), and their joint work from Cuba.

Rebecca Norris Webb, Poet's House, Rapid City, South Dakota, 2010

And please join Alex and Rebecca for an artists’ reception/book signing for their joint exhibition, “Violet Isle: A Duet of Photographs from Cuba” in PHILADELPHIA on Thursday, March 4th, from 5-7 pm.  It will be held at Gallery 1401 at the University of the Arts, as will a second SPE event and book signing on Friday, March 5th, also from 5-7pm.  PhotoEye will also host a book signing for Alex and Rebecca at SPE on Friday from 1:30-2:30pm.  For more information about all three events, visit Magnum Events.

Alex Webb, Havana, 2001

RNW, Havana, Cuba, 2007

TWO QUESTIONS: On Literature and Photography; On Editing and Double Spreads

January 18, 2010

For January, we are featuring TWO QUESTIONS from two photographers — Natalia Jimenez, a photographer and photo editor based in New York whose family is from Peru, and Toomas Kokovkin, a geographer and photographer born in Russia, but who lives and often documents in Estonia.  They both asked questions about photography’s relationship to literature as well as about the process of photo-editing and the use of double-spreads in the photographic book. You can read more about Natalia and Toomas below.––Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb

Alex Webb, Bombardopolis, Haiti, 1986

NATALIA JIMENEZ: Alex, how has literature helped influence and shape your vision as a photographer? Who are some writers that you have found the most influential to your work?

ALEX WEBB:  Deeply buried in the back of the photographer’s mind lie all kinds of influences –– what one has seen, read, heard, experienced –– a lifetime of influences, flotsam and jetsam, and baggage, personal and cultural –– and all these things conjoin, unbeknownst to the photographer, at the moment when one presses the shutter.

My father was a writer –– albeit a secretive one –– and I have always been interested in fiction.  Though I majored in college in literature, I realized fairly early on that the process of photography –– going out and confronting the world with the camera –– worked much better for me than confronting the blank page.  However, I have definitely been influenced by writers and their vision of the world, especially in how their writings have sparked my interest in certain places.

Because of the terrible tragedy in Haiti right now, a disaster that Haiti, of all countries, is least equipped to deal with, of course Haiti comes to mind. My first reading of Graham Greene’s The Comedians in 1975, a book that both fascinated and scared me, was key in my decision then to go to Haiti for the first time, a trip that transformed me as a photographer and as a human being. And my photographic explorations of Latin American have certainly been influenced by the writings of some of the “magic realist” novelists, in particular Garcia Marquez and Vargas Llosa. Throughout my work in Latin America, the mundane is often transformed into the fantastical. Often people seem to morph into animals, and animals into people.  I look at some of my photographs from the Amazon or the Darien in Panama, and I think of the world of Vargas Llosa’s The Green House: steamy, isolated river towns where the military or the police swagger through, where the jungle is ever-present, always encroaching. Do I think of notions of “magic realism” when I walk the streets of little jungle towns?  Certainly not.  On the street I am in the moment. But, in hindsight –– which sometimes adds insight ––  I suspect that I am more attuned to such notions because of my readings.

N.J.: Rebecca, You are both a photographer and photo editor. How have you been able to maintain both a balance and separation between someone else’s work and your own, while contributing to another person’s vision?

REBECCA NORRIS WEBB: For me at least, photography and photo editing are two very different and distinct skills.  I feel fortunate that I can do both, since not all photographers can.  (I know some very noted and talented photographers, for instance, who never edit their own photographic books.)

The challenge, as you well know, Natalia, since you yourself are both a photo editor and photographer, is how to maintain some sort of balance in one’s life.  This is the crucial question, since both editing and teaching –– which I consider similar endeavors –– can sap one’s creative energy, and make it difficult to have enough left over to feed one’s own work.   So how does one do this?  Every person is different and has different creative rhythms.  For me to ensure a creative and emotional balance in my life, it’s essential that I dedicate a majority of my time to my own personal photographic projects, so that even though I may also be working on one of Alex’s books and/or another photographer’s projects, for instance, my personal projects continue to be my first priority and I see myself primarily as a photographer and author/bookmaker.  In addition, I’ve also learned over the years to be more detached while editing another’s person’s work.  I’ve come to realize that my chief job as a photo editor is to help another photographer see how to make his or her work as strong as it can be.  I am merely a facilitator –– and on my good days, sometimes even an illuminator –– but never the author.  It is always in the end their book, their project, their assignment.  Accepting that limitation allows me to feel good about my role as editor, to let go of the projects once they are done, and then turn my attention to what’s most important in my life –– my own books and projects.

Rebecca Norris Webb, Near White Owl, South Dakota, 2009

TOOMAS KOKOVKIN: Rebecca, do you see the photographic book rather like a novel or a collection of verses?

It’s difficult to compare different arts, but if I had to select a literary form that’s closest to the photographic book –– or, at least, to the way I’ve edited and sequenced them –– I would choose the poetry book, which I guess is not a surprise considering my background as a poet. One of the main reasons I consider poetry and photography sister arts is because the poetic image –– which is suggestive and resonant and sometimes mysterious –– lies at the heart of both forms.

If I were to look at my own photographic books, I would say that they specifically resemble a certain kind of poetry book, one that is a series of interrelated poems, such as The World Doesn’t End by Charles Simic, or Wild Iris by Louise Gluck.  In both of these examples, what pulls the reader through the book is the combination of the poet’s sensibility, the resonant and suggestive images, the topic/theme of the book, and the emotional tensions and contradictions that fuel the book’s poetic journey.  I say journey, but I don’t mean necessarily a linear journey through time and space.  Instead, it is more a poetic journey through a landscape of these suggestive and mysterious and sometimes contradictory images –– some of which may be resonant moments suspended in time like a photograph ––that allow the viewer/reader to accompany the poet on the journey yet have his/her own unique experience of that same poetic journey, which may be similar to –– yet simultaneously different from –– the poet’s experience.

T.K.: Alex, how do you envision a wholeness of a photographic book? Do you see it as a movie on paper, or perhaps closer to a collection of single, distinct images?  In addition, how much does the two-page spread influence a book’s sequence and  unity?

A.W.: I think that there are different kinds of photographic books, books that strike different notes –– in their structure, their sequencing, and their design.  Some books seem like pieces of music: a big book might be a kind of symphony, a small book a kind of sonata. Other books seem more cinematic in structure, relying on jump cuts and running sequences.  (Though one could also say that this corresponds to a kind of musical counterpoint.) Yet other books seem more didactic, more rigid, more essay-like.  So I think that there are multiple analogies that can be made to clarify the nature of photographic books.

For my own books, I tend to structure them emotionally and hence –– more or less –– musically.  I often think of the books in terms of movements, movements corresponding to emotional notes, which in turn may well correspond to hues of color, or modulation of light and dark.  My first book, Hot Light/Half-Made Worlds, moves from light to dark – both literally and emotionally –– passing through a whole host of interim emotional states on the way.   From the Sunshine State, my book on Florida, has a more unsettled structure –– maybe more like jazz improvisation –– to represent the cacophony of Florida.  And Rebecca’s and my recent book, Violet Isle, works like a duet, exploring the point/counterpoint of our respective and distinct visions. Each of these books has its own  distinct structure corresponding to a series of emotional notes that I or, in the instance of Violet Isle –– we –– felt made sense for the given body of work.

Regarding double spreads (two-page spreads):  Double spreads can give a sense of drama, a kind of visual explosion, which has a very specific impact on the viewer.  But using them results in a compromise: The image is split down the middle, so sections of the image may well be obscured by the book’s gutter.  There are double spreads in both Under A Grudging Sun and Crossings because these books called out for that kind of image size and drama.  Some of my other books, however, did not demand that same level of intensity, so I ended up using the double spread for a variety of other reasons.  With Violet Isle, for instance, Rebecca and I chose to use double spreads because we wanted the viewer to go back and forth from our distinct visions with each spread. We felt this was important to emphasize the uniqueness of our respective visions while simultaneously exploring their compatibility.  And with Violet Isle, our designer chose a paperback format with a Smythe binding, which lies flatter than other kinds of binding, obscuring less of the picture in the gutter.

In the end, books are always compromises of some sort or another –– whether in the design or in the printing.  One chooses the form that best represents what you need to say about that particular project –– which is often also what you feel about it.

NATALIA JIMENEZ

Natalia Jimenez, Nairobi, Kenya, 2006

Natalia is a photo editor and photographer in New York City. When she is not hunting down the best images for the The Star-Ledger, she enjoys photographing wherever her travels take her. She studied photography at S.I. Newhouse School at Syracuse University and ICP.

Natalia’s website: www.nataliajimenez.com

TOOMAS KOKOVKIN

Toomas Kokovkin, "The Flying Girl"

I was born in 1960 in St Petersburg (former Leningrad), but have lived mostly in Estonia. For nearly 20 years, I have been living on the island of Hiiumaa, which is in the Baltic sea. I have a PhD in geography, and have been involved in various programs that look at the relationship between people and nature, such as World Wide Fund for Nature and the UNESCO’s program, “Man and Biosphere.”

As a research geographer, I originally focused on travel and field-work photographs, but, with time, I began to realize that there was something important that I could not catch in my photographs. Whether it was a moment, an emotion, a gesture, a mood, or something else that I could not grasp, it was so elusive that I could not name it. Early on as a photographer, I found myself too attached to words and their meanings. Slowly I began to see that through the photographic language I could begin to explain the world in a different way, without having to rely so much on words.

Recently, I have photographed projects thoughout Europe, mostly in rural and coastal areas, projects which often depict the daily lives of people in their environments. I have edited and published several books, and my work has been in exhibitions in Estonia, Latvia, Denmark, Finland, and France.–T.K.

Toomas’s website:  http://toomas.fotokogu.com

POSTINGS: JANUARY 2010

January 4, 2010

This month’s column includes MAKING BOOKS, highlighting our upcoming slide talk and book signing featuring Violet Isle and three other books, TWO QUOTES from noted book publishers Lesley Martin (Aperture) and Darius Himes (Radius) about the future of the photo book, and, lastly, TWO LINKS, which is a farewell to photographer Larry Sultan who died last month.––Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb

MAKING BOOKS: SLIDE TALK AND BOOK SIGNING

Alex Webb, Barrio Chino, Cuba, 2007

This Thursday, join us for a slide talk featuring four of our books and two unpublished projects in the East Village at the Sidewalk Cafe, 94 Avenue A at Sixth Street (take the V or F to the Second Avenue Stop). The hour-long talk is part of the PROSE PROS series and will start promptly at 6:30, and ends at 7:45pm.  We’ll have  a few copies of Violet Isle, The Glass Between Us, and the out-of-print, Under a Grudging Sun (Haiti) available for the signing afterwards. Hope to see some of you there. –– Alex and Rebecca

For more information about this event, visit Magnum’s Events page.

Rebecca Norris Webb, Faith, South Dakota, 2009

TWO QUOTES: LESLEY MARTIN AND DARIUS HIMES

Over the past month, there’s been a lively online discussion about the future of the photo book, including what it may look like in 10 years and whether it will be digital or physical (you only have to visit Alex’s and my Park Slope brownstone to see where our sympathies lie: We have a collection of over 2000 photo books).

Below are TWO QUOTES excerpted from essays by Aperture’s publisher, Lesley Martin, and Radius Books’ Darius Himes, as well as links to their full comments.  Alex found Darius’s perspective particularly refreshing in that it put the photographic book into the historical context of bookmaking through the centuries.––Rebecca Norris Webb

…I’m optimistic, overall, that people clearly love the physical photobook as an object. Hopefully they will continue to put money where their mouth is and buy them from publishers and small bookstores whenever possible. It’s also exciting that people are curious about pushing into new territory when it comes to bringing together images and text –– in both print and digital forms. There’s a shared sense that things are in transition and we need to find new ways of doing things.–– Lesley Martin

Alex Webb, Rebecca Norris Webb photos, book dummy

Alex Webb, RNW's photos, VI book dummy

…Here are some ideas for “experimentation” with print-on-demand: have the book block created using print-on-demand technology and then take that block and have it bound in a cloth of your choosing at a local bindery; produce a hard cover print-on-demand book and produce a letterpress dustjacket on paper of your choice; design the book for a different trim size, print it in the larger size from Blurb and then have it professionally trimmed to your designed size—you’ll be sidestepping the limits on possible trim sizes; print two slim volumes—one print-on-demand and one using some other method—and have a slipcase or box produced to house the set; use the paper or trim sizes intended for non-photo print-on-demand books and make a photography book. These are just a few general ideas, but I genuinely hope to see more creative innovation with the book form in this next set of contest submissions for 2010 (the contest will launch sometime in the early Spring of 2010, so stay tuned).

With all of the interest in photography books and the history of photography as seen through publishing, there can only be more and more innovation ahead, which is truly exciting. I’m looking forward to seeing the fruits of these discussions over the months ahead…––Darius Himes

TWO LINKS: LARRY SULTAN, A FAREWELL

Larry Sultan, from "Pictures from Home," Janet Borden Gallery

I was sad to see that the photographer Larry Sultan died shortly before Christmas.  Larry was a source of inspiration to a generation of photographers in the Bay area, where he taught for many years.  He produced a fascinating book in the 1970′s called Evidence, which gathered a set of remarkable photographs –– largely from the archives of large corporations –– and showed them in an utterly different context, confounding our expectations of what a photograph is and what it does.  Subsequently, he did a very personal –– but also unsettling –– book on his family, Pictures from Home, as well as a book on the San Fernando Valley, The Valley, in which he photographed in homes rented for the production of pornographic movies.

What I find most intriguing about Larry’s work is that it often questions traditional notions of photography, making us revaluate our understanding of the medium. Below is a link to his New York Times obit, as well as a link to a selection of his photographers from the Janet Borden Gallery in New York, who represents his work.––Alex Webb

Larry Sultan, from "Pictures from Home," Janet Borden Gallery

POSTINGS: December 2009

December 14, 2009

This month we’re featuring TWO PUBLICATIONS, one that features a series of Alex’s early black-and-white photography, TWO LINKS, including a video that explores the lives and work of Australian photographers Trent Parke and Narelle Autio, who we featured in last month’s TWO LOOKS column, and, lastly, TWO VIEWS of a creature of the night.––Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb

Alex Webb, Mound Bayou, Mississippi, 1976

TWO PUBLICATIONS:  ALEX’S EARLY WORK and NEW MAGAZINE

Since 1979, I have photographed almost entirely in color.  However, prior to that, I was totally committed to working in black-and-white.  This month, a literary journal, the Threepenny Review, has a selection of some of my black-and-white work, ranging from an early series on teenagers in Cambridge, Massachusetts, that I produced in 1972 and 1973, while I was in college, to work from my first trips to Haiti (1975), the Mississippi Delta (1976-77), and the U.S.-Mexico Border (1975 and 1978).  It also happens to be the Threepenny Review’s thirtieth anniversary issue, so congratulations to Wendy Lesser, the review’s founder.

Since a number of our workshop participants are street photographers, we thought we would also mention there’s a new biannual periodical featuring street photography, called Publication, which is published by the In-Public street photographer Nick Turpin and which is now accepting online submissions. –– Alex Webb

TWO LINKS: TRENT AND NARELLE VIDEO; ICP SERIES

Since we featured Trent Parke and Narelle Autio in our last Two Looks posting (November 23, 2009), we thought we’d link you to this video, called Dreamlives 2002, that explores their work –– including both their photojournalism assignments and their more personal projects –– as well as their relationship.

Garry Winogrand, from the book, The Animals

The International Center of Photography also has links to videos of talks by noted photographers, but I was especially intrigued with their audio programs, including the link below to a talk by the late great street photographer Garry Winogrand, author of The Animals,  an inspiration for Rebecca’s first book, The Glass Between Us.––Alex Webb


TWO VIEWS: CREATURE OF THE NIGHT

Rebecca Norris Webb, from the series, On Extended Wings

I’d like to leave you with TWO VIEWS of the owl, a creature long associated with the night and wisdom and death.  Appropriately, I’ve included a poem by the late M. Wyrebek, a poet who spent most of her short life battling cancer, and perhaps because of that struggle, her poetry is unflinching and courageous, open to both suffering and mystery. Her poignant poem, Night Owl, below, from her award-winning book, Be Properly Scared, relates an encounter she had while driving home through the countryside late one night after receiving troubling news about her cancer. “It’s as if a night owl becomes her Virgilian guide into the vast night,” wrote her friend and fellow poet, Edward Hirsch.

I’ve paired Night Owl with a recent unpublished photograph of mine (above), which I took in Morocco in October.  It’s part of my new series, On Extended Wings, inspired in part by this quote by the poet Li-Young Lee: “Only birds can reveal to us dying by flying.”––Rebecca Norris Webb

NIGHT OWL

Driving my bad news the back way home

I know I’m in the land that is life

when I reach my favorite stretch of road –– fields

flat and wide where corn appears soon after

planting the soil tilled, night-soaked

and crumbled into fists.

Ferguson’s barn is somewhere

at the end of this long arm of tar

and as I near it, something grazes the back

passenger-side door, luffs parallel to my car ––

a huge owl on headlight spray floating,

holding night over the hood to see

if this moving think is real, alive,

something to kill –– then gliding in

close as if to taste glass.

The road levitates, buffeted on a surf

of light, the fog-eaten farm disappearing

as I ride into starlessness, cells conspiring

so I am bright-flecked and uplifted –– is this

what it feels like to be chosen –– to be taken

under the wing of something vast

that knows its way blindly?


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