Posts Tagged ‘South Dakota’

My Dakota: Reviewed in Orion Magazine

November 7, 2013
©Rebecca Norris Webb, "Ghost Mountain," from "My Dakota" in "Visions of Earth" column, National Geographic Magazine, April 2013

©Rebecca Norris Webb, “Ghost Mountain,” from “My Dakota” reviewed in the current issue of Orion Magazine, Nov./Dec. 2013

“If grief had a landscape, what shape would it take? Rebecca Norris Webb’s moving photographs of South Dakota, her home place, suggest the contours of such a shape, from portraits of an endless horizon to a close-up of a row of apples, bruised and scattered beside a country road.

Composed of 42 images and a few brief lines of handwritten text, My Dakota is both a monument to a place and an elegy for a person, the author’s brother, whose heart failed without warning in 2006.  The circumstances of loss find their way into this collection: there’s an urgent quality about those roadside apples and a suddenness captured in the taut muscles of a bird dog.  The most arresting of these photographs achieve their sense of alarm indirectly, or at least angularly, via a detail seen through a rearview mirror, a sliver of open curtain, a spill of light through trees.  Our landscapes contain every part of us, Webb seems to say, the broken and the whole.”—Scott Gast, Orion Magazine review of “My Dakota,” November/December 2013 issue

UPCOMING WORKSHOPS, EXHIBITIONS, AND TALKS WITH ALEX AND REBECCA:

——Friday Jan. 17 thru Sunday Jan. 19, FINDING YOUR VISION @ LEICA STORE MIAMI.  Places are limited in this new weekend workshop in Miami.  For more more information, including how to enroll, please visit: 

http://www.leicastoremiami.com/collections/workshops-classes-and-trips/products/alex-webb-rebecca-norris-webb-workshop-finding-your-vision-fri-sat-sun-jan-17-19-2014

——Saturday May 3 thru Friday May 10, FINDING YOUR VISION, NEW YORK.  For more information including how to enroll, please visit: 

http://www.webbnorriswebb.co/#mi=4&pt=0&pi=3

——Friday, Oct. 18, 2013 thru Feb. 2, 2014, “My Dakota” and “Violet Isle” at the Southeast Museum of Photography, Daytona, Florida; artist talk, book signing, and opening reception with Alex and Rebecca on Friday, Oct. 18th, 6-8pm:

http://www.smponline.org/lectures.html#.UiS0jBbB50A

TWO SCHOLARSHIPS: In Memory of My Brother

September 20, 2012

©Rebecca Norris Webb, “Two Badlands,” 2012

In memory of my brother, Alex and I are offering two DAVID HAL NORRIS scholarships for our upcoming workshop at the Dahl Arts Center in Rapid City, South Dakota, the first weekend in October.  These two tuition-free scholarships are available to any high school or college student with a passion for photography.  To apply, just email 10 small jogs (10 inches on longest side, 72 dpi) and a short statement about why you’d like to take the workshop (not more than 150 words) to me by Monday, October 1st. My email: rebeccanorriswebb@yahoo.com. A third scholarship is being offered for a BHSU student by the Black Hills State Photography Department. Stay tuned for application details about this third tuition-free scholarship.—Rebecca Norris Webb

FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE “FINDING YOUR VISION” WORKSHOP @ THE DAHL IN RAPID CITY, PLEASE CLICK HERE.

UPCOMING WORKSHOPS WITH ALEX AND REBECCA

––Friday Oct. 12 thru Sunday Oct. 14: Boston: Weekend Workshop, produced by the Robert Klein Gallery  Do you know where you’re going next with your photography –– or where it’s taking you?  This intensive weekend workshop will help photographers begin to understand their own distinct way of seeing the world.  It will also help photographers figure out their next step photographically  –– from deepening their own unique vision to the process of discovering and making a long-term project that they’re passionate about, as well as the process of how long-term projects evolve into books and exhibitions. A workshop for serious amateurs and professionals alike, it will taught by Alex and Rebecca, a creative team who often edit projects and books together –– including their joint book and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, exhibition, “Violet Isle: A Duet of Photographs from Cuba,” Alex’s recent Aperture book, “The Suffering of Light,” and Rebecca’s new Radius book, “My Dakota.” Included in the workshop will be an editing exercise as well as an optional photography assignment and long-term project review.  For more information –– including how to enroll and daily schedule –– please contact Maja at the Robert Klein Gallery: maja@robertkleingallery.com

––FRIDAY, OCTOBER 5TH, 7PM, THRU SUNDAY, OCT. 7TH, 6PM: “Finding Your Vision@ The Dahl Weekend Workshop with Alex and Rebecca Webb,” Rapid City, South Dakota.   This weekend workshop will include a gallery talk/walk through of the current “My Dakota” exhibit at The Dahl Arts Center in Rapid City, and a digital assistant who can answer any your digital photography issues. Graduate and undergraduate college credit available for teachers and others who are interested. For all Colorado photographers interested in this workshop — or photographers who would like to fly into Denver — please note that Rapid City is only a six-hour drive from Denver, Colorado.  For more information click here.  If you have questions about the workshop, feel free to contact Rebecca directly at rebeccanorriswebb@yahoo.com.

TWO NEW WORKSHOPS — JUST ADDED!

—SUNDAY, OCT. 28TH, 10 -5pm, STREET PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOP @ MCNY. Please join Alex and Rebecca at the Museum of the City of New York, 1220 Fifth Ave., for this one-day street photography workshop, which will include an assignment related to the current street photography exhibit at the museum and gallery talk by curator, Sean Corcoran.  To find out more information including how to register click here.

 —SUNDAY, DEC. 9TH, 10-5PM, MASTER CLASS: MIAMI: A ONE-DAY STREET PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOP WITH ALEX WEBB AND REBECCA NORRIS WEBB.  A one-day street photography workshop in conjunction with the first Miami Street Photography Festival, which also coincides with Miami Basel Art Fair. (If you wish, you can join a street photography group the day before (Sat., Dec. 8th) and photograph Little Havana, an assignment which the Webb will edit with you on Sunday.)  To register and learn more, click here.

UPCOMING EVENTS FOR ALEX AND REBECCA:  SEPTEMBER, OCTOBER 2012

SIOUX FALLS,  SOUTH DAKOTA

——SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 11-11:45: “Here and There: The Photographs of Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb,” South Dakota Festival of Books, Orpheum Anne Zabel Theater, with “My Dakota” and “The Suffering of Light” book signing to follow at 1pm with other festival authors.

RAPID CITY, SOUTH DAKOTA

——FRIDAY, OCTOBER 5, 7-8:30pm: “Together and Apart: The Photographs of Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb,” Dahl Arts Center, will include the “Our Dakota” slide show, Q&A with the Webbs, and book signing.

——JUNE-SEPTEMBER 2012:  OUR DAKOTA Flickr site, an online photographic community  This Flickr group is open to all photographers 15 and older with a present or past connection to South Dakota.  Here is the link to the final assignment.

BOSTON

——FRIDAY, OCTOBER 12, 7-8:30 PM: Slide Talk with Alex and Rebecca at Grand Circle Gallery, 347 Congress Street, Boston, a talk which is free and open to the public

——SATURDAY, OCTOBER 13, 4-5PM: Gallery Talk/Walk Through with Rebecca of her “My Dakota” show with the Robert Klein Gallery at Ars Libri, 500 Harrison Avenue, Boston, followed by a Q&A with Rebecca and Alex, who edited “My Dakota” with Rebecca.

MIAMI

——SATURDAY, DECEMBER 8, 9:30: “An Evening with Magnum Photographer Alex Webb & Rebecca Norris Webb: Street Photography from Florida, Cuba, and Around the World.” Slide talk followed by Q&A, Kike San Martin Studios, 2045 NW 1st Ave., Miami, Florida.  This free event is part of the Miami Street Photography Festival 2012, which coincides with Art/Miami Basel the second weekend in December.  Space is limited, so please RSVP as soon as possible to reserve a seat.

OTHER RECENT LINKS FOR ALEX AND REBECCA:

LINK TO THE NEW YORK TIMES LENS BLOG Q&A WITH REBECCA ABOUT “MY DAKOTA”

LINK TO ALEX’S EAST LONDON PHOTOGRAPHS IN THE AUGUST 2012 ISSUE OF NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC.

TO READ THE  FRACTION MAGAZINE REVIEW of MY DAKOTA CLICK HERE.

My Dakota: S.D. Opening; New Yorker Photo Booth

June 1, 2012

©Alex Webb, Rebecca installing the “My Dakota” at the Dahl Arts Center in Rapid City, SD

Rebecca and I are very glad to be in Rapid City, South Dakota,  for the opening of her “My Dakota” exhibition at the Dahl Arts Center.   As one can see in these installation shots, Rebecca is echoing the form of the book through writing some of her text pieces directly on the wall.    

With this exhibition and book, Rebecca has managed to create something of poignant beauty and poetic resonance out of a family tragedy ––  her brother’s untimely death.  So this opening is particularly special because Rebecca’s father and mother, aged 92 and 85, are coming to the opening.

Also a nice coincidence: the New Yorker Photo Booth blog,  is running a piece on Rebecca’s book today.––Alex Webb                                                                                 

UPCOMING EVENTS: JUNE & JULY

NEW YORK

––THURSDAY, JUNE 21, RICCO MARESCA GALLERY, NY: “Weather,” a group exhibition with a selection of photographs from MY DAKOTA, 6-8 pm.  The exhibition runs through August 17.

RAPID CITY, SD

––FRIDAY, JUNE 1, RAPID CITY, SOUTH DAKOTA: “My Dakota” exhibition opening and book signing, Dahl Arts Center, 5-7pm.  The exhibition will run until October 13, 2012.

––FRIDAY, JUNE 1: Launch of OUR DAKOTA Flickr site, an online photographic community

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA

SATURDAY, JUNE 9,  AT LOOK3 PHOTOGRAPHY FESTIVAL

4-6pm Alex Webb in conversation with noted writer and cultural critic Geoff Dyer

6-7pm: Book signing with Alex Webb, Rebecca Norris Webb, and Geoff Dyer at the Second Street Gallery

9pm: “My Dakota” in the WORKS slide show

SNOWMASS, COLORADO:

TUESDAY, JULY 7-8pm:”Together and Apart: The Photographs of Alex Webb & Rebecca Norris Webb,” Schermer Hall, Anderson Ranch Campus, Snowmass, Colorado.  Q&A with the Webbs and book signing of “The Suffering of Light” and “My Dakota” to follow.

UPCOMING WORKSHOPS WITH ALEX AND REBECCA

>Friday evening, Oct. 5, thru Sunday, Oct. 7 pm: FINDING YOUR VISION WORKSHOP @ THE DAHL, Rapid City, South Dakota. Discount for members of the Dahl Arts Center.

ADDITIONAL LINKS FOR ALEX AND REBECCA:
Alex’s interview with Alessia Glaviano for Italian Vogue

See Alex and Rebecca’s photos and others from Magnum’s House of Pictures project in Rochester here

See Rebecca’s My Dakota in progress at Radius Books

Q&A with Rebecca and Sarah Rhodes on Timemachine

To read the Robert Klein Gallery Tripod Blog Q&A with Rebecca.

Read more about Magnum’s House of Pictures project in the New Yorker and see Alex’s photo of the day, April 24th.

Alex’s “The Suffering of Light” exhibition at Forma, Milan, featured in Italian Vogue.

©Alex Webb, Rebecca writing the “Lost and Loss” text during the installation of her “My Dakota” exhibition @ the Dahl Arts Center in Rapid City, South Dakota

NEW BOOK: CONTATTI

May 7, 2012

©Rebecca Norris Webb, Contact sheet for “Blackbirds,” a photograph in the upcoming book, “My Dakota” (Radius Books, May 2012).  This contact sheet is part of the new book by the Italian publisher, Postcart, called”Contatti.”

Rebecca and I are in Milan, where a new group book, “Contatti,” was launched at the MIA photographic festival this weekend.  Rebeeca’s above “Blackbirds” contact sheet is one of more than 50 from photographers from around the world, including Larry Fink, Donna Ferrato, Albert Watson, Jane Evelyn Atwood, Jacob Sobol, Callie Shell, Vince Muesi, Elinor Carucci, Mark Steinmetz, Lucia Nimcova, and Roger Ballen.  Currently, it’s only in Italian (I’ve included Rebecca’s original English text below), but an English version may soon be forthcoming. ––Alex Webb

Text © Rebecca Norris Webb, an excerpt from the new book, “Contatti,” edited. by Giammaria de Gasperis, Postcart Edizioni, May 2012)

UPCOMING EVENTS: MAY & JUNE

BOLOGNA

––MONDAY, MAY 7, BOLOGNA, ITALY: “Together & Apart: Photographs of Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb. 5 pm

NEW YORK

––THURSDAY, MAY 24, NEW YORK, NY: My Dakota book launch at ICP, May 24″ href=”http://www.icp.org/events/2012/may/24/book-signing-rebecca-webb-norriss-my-dakota” target=”_blank”>My Dakota book launch, party and book signing at ICP (43d and Sixth Ave), 6-7:30.

RAPID CITY, SD

––FRIDAY, JUNE 1, RAPID CITY, SOUTH DAKOTA: “My Dakota” exhibition opening and book party, Dahl Arts Center, 6-8pm.  The exhibition will run until October 13, 2012.

––CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA

SATURDAY, JUNE 9,  AT LOOK3 PHOTOGRAPHY FESTIVAL

4-6pm Alex Webb in conversation with noted writer and cultural critic Geoff Dyer

6-7pm: Book signing with Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb at the Second Street Gallery

9pm: “My Dakota” in the WORKS slide show

ADDITIONAL LINKS FOR ALEX AND REBECCA:

See Alex and Rebecca’s photos and others from Magnum’s House of Pictures project in Rochester here.

Read more about Magnum’s House of Pictures project in the New Yorker and see Alex’s photo of the day, April 24th.

Alex’s “The Suffering of Light” exhibition at Forma, Milan, featured in Italian Vogue.

Italian translation of above text by Rebecca Norris Webb

“My Dakota” Limited Ed., Radius Book Workshop

June 29, 2011

Rebecca Norris Webb, Fallen Apples, print option for "My Dakota" limited ed.

Before we head out to photograph for the summer — Alex south to Peru and Rebecca west to South Dakota — we just wanted to thank our online photographic community for all your support this past year.  And we’d like to give  a special thanks to all of you who have reserved one of the “My Dakota” limited editions, which will help Radius publish Rebecca’s book next spring.

In addition, we hope some of you can join us for the Book Weekend Workshop with Radius with Radius publisher and creative director, the acclaimed book designer David Chickey, and noted photo book expert, Radius book editor, and coauthor of the new book, Publish Your Photography Book, Darius Himes, in Santa Fe the third weekend in September this year. This intensive weekend workshop is a great way to explore what’s the next step for your long-term project as well as an additional way to support Rebecca’s “My Dakota” book.

Please stay in touch over the summer, and we hope to see some of you at Alex’s opening at the Stephen Daiter Gallery in Chicago on Friday, September 9th, and at our joint show at the Robert Klein Gallery in Boston on Saturday afternoon, Sept. 17th.  Looking forward to working with the photographers of our most advanced and intensive project workshop, Photo Project Workshop 2011 at Caption Gallerythe last week in October, that will culminate in a book dummy, a designed cover of the book, and a show at the Caption Gallery after the workshop.  (See below for more details; as of July 1, two places are left). —Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb

“MY DAKOTA” LIMITED EDITION

Edition of 30 (first 25 @$500; last five @$900)

11×14 signed Type C print and signed, editioned book with one of Rebecca’s handwritten text pieces

As of July 1st, 22 of the limited editions have sold.  Thanks, everyone, for your generous support of Rebecca’s book. We couldn’t do it without you.  I’m about to send out the second round of emails.  If you haven’t yet heard from me, feel free to contact me directly to see the pdf of all eight print options (including the three in this blog posting). Thanks, again. — Alex  (my direct email: rnorriswebb@yahoo.com)

UPCOMING PHOTO PROJECT WORKSHOPS WITH ALEX AND REBECCA:

––Book Weekend with Radius Books (and the Webbs):  Friday, Sept. 23, to Sunday, Sept. 25, 2011, Santa Fe, NM

–- The Photo Project Workshop: Sunday, Oct. 23, to Saturday, Oct. 29th, 2011, New York

All former Webb Workshop participants are invited to participate, but others will be considered as well.

Rebecca Norris Webb, Black Birds, print option for "My Dakota" limited ed.

Rebecca Norris Webb, Sheep Mountain, print option for "My Dakota" limited ed.

Notes on “The Suffering of Light” @ Time.com

May 16, 2011

Alex Webb, "Erie, Pennsylvania, 2010," from "The Suffering of Light"

Perhaps it’s the poet in me, but I love the irony of being able to hold in my hands a series of intangible moments — and Alex’s new book of 30 years of color work is no exception.  

To see a slide show of images  – including the one above from Erie, Pennsylvania, which was the last photograph Alex took for THE SUFFERING OF LIGHT during a road trip with me driving from New York to South Dakota last summer, and, appropriately, the last photograph in the book — and to read Alex’s notes on the bookmaking process, please follow this link to TIME.COM, where you can also leave your comments.

In addition, here’s a link to an excerpt of the Geoff Dyer essay about Alex in the book, an excerpt recently posted on the GUARDIAN website.

For those in the New York area, please join us for the book launch of THE SUFFERING OF LIGHT at Aperture Foundation, 547 W. 27th on WEDNESDAY, JUNE 1st at 6:30pm, which will include a conversation with noted critic Max Kozloff as well as a book signing. Alex and I hope to see many of you there.–Rebecca Norris Webb

WEBB LIBRARY: New Additions

December 13, 2010

In this new column, we’ll occasionally mention some of the books we’ve added to our ever-growing and eclectic library, which is gradually taking over our Brooklyn apartment.  (We were both English majors in college, so we have 100′s of poetry, nonfiction, novels, and photography books.)

We recently added the following four books of photography — Lee Friedlander’s America by Car, Alec Soth’s From Here to There, Jason Eskenasi’s Wonderland, David Taylor’s Working the Line — and one book of poetry: Charles Simic’s Lingering Ghosts.  They are all very different books, reflecting five fascinating and unusual ways of responding to the world and human existence. What they do all share, however,  is a sense of individuality: one cannot imagine anyone else making these books except these particular authors. It’s what both Rebecca and I prize about each of these books.

Trent Bailey’s photograph of the five books on our library’s mantelpiece also shows a detail from an early Patrick Webb painting, as well as an unusual new addition — Phinneas the Pheasant — a specimen of a ring-tailed pheasant, which happens to be the state bird of Rebecca’s home state of South Dakota.  We acquired Phinneas this fall while driving back from the  Black Hills to our Brooklyn neighborhood.–Alex Webb

NEW HONG KONG WORKSHOP ADDED MIDJANUARY:

We’ve added a two-day workshop in Hong Kong next month, in which we’ll feature the first unbound copy of Alex’s upcoming survey book, The Suffering of Light, hot off the press from the printing plant in Hong Kong.  If you’re based in Hong Kong or the area — or have photographic friends that are — please feel free to email them this link to the workshop, which is on the Magnum site.

To read more about this workshop in Chinese, please visit this link.Rebecca Norris Webb

Webb Library, 2010

TWO QUESTIONS: On Unpeopled Frames, On Early Influences; On Working Near vs. Far, On Text and Photographs

November 3, 2010

The TWO QUESTIONS column this month features questions from photographers from TWO CONTINENTS: Matthew Goddard-Jones from Australia and Carolyn Beller, originally from Alabama.  Matthew’s dynamic, playful, and often surprising images from his long-term project, “Pastimes,” perfectly echo his subject matter, Australians at play.   Carolyn’s curiosity about the world has led her from her potter’s studio in Chicago to follow her relatively new passion of photography in Myanmar, Rwanda, and other countries around the globe. You can read more about each photographer –– and be linked to their work ––  at the end of this column.––Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb

RNW, St. Francis, Rosebud Indian Reservation, SD, from "My Dakota"

ON TEXT AND PHOTOGRAPHS AND ON EARLY INFLUENCES

MATTHEW GODDARD-JONES: Rebecca, do you consider the writings in your books as stand alone imagery, or do they add to the visual images?

REBECCA NORRIS WEBB: One of my artistic obsessions is exploring how text and images can work together in a photo book to illuminate one another. I’m a writer as well as a photographer, so I tend to see in images, whether I’m using a pen or a camera.  So I guess in a way what I’m also exploring is a form that echoes my own creative process, especially when that process is trying to deal with something as complicated as loss, from the loss of our natural world –– as in my first book, “The Glass Between Us” –– to a private loss, as in the book I’m working on now, “My Dakota.”

For me, I like to think of text and photographs as equal elements in a book, as if they were all notes in the same piece of music, or images in a single poem.  With each book, I try to figure out the particular relationship between the two that makes the most sense for that particular body of work and the themes that accompany it.  Broadly speaking, I guess I would say that my combining text and photographs has something to do with how I experience the world, and also how this experience is translated in how I build my own photography books ––image by image (sometimes using text, sometimes photographs), page by page, so that the emotional resonance and/or suggestiveness of each image spills over onto the next, allowing each image to be awash with all the others.  This kind of layering — image by image, page by page — colors and shades the body of work until it’s shaped into a completed photo book, a process similar to the creation of a painting or a poem.

For instance, now nearing the completion of “My Dakota,” I’m only now beginning to understand that the my repeated use of shrouds and veils in this series reminds me of the villanelle, a poetic form in which lines/images often repeat, yet each time they repeat, the meaning varies somewhat.  Perhaps I was intuitively drawn to this sort of villanelle-style repetition/variation in both my text and photographs because it’s a form that closely reflects the process that the grieving and troubled mind goes through while grappling with what is lost and –– simultaneously and paradoxically –– what can never be lost.  And it’s probably no accident that one of my favorite poems is a villanelle about loss, Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art.”

CAROLYN BELLER:  Alex, it seems that the art of photography is sometimes very misunderstood. Most people would never dream that they could compose a brilliant concerto, paint a masterpiece, or write a classic novel, as these works of art are created by artists out of nothing. A photographer has a camera and in a split second captures what actually exists. It would seem that if a dog, some people, a building, a road exists than we all can see those things and yet a great photographer sees these same things in a very different way. Your iconic images are SO complex. Most people can’t see contrast, shape, color, gesture, scale, expression, and composition in a 3D world expressed as a 2D image. Do you think that you were born with an acute visual awareness or have you developed it over the years by taking hundreds of thousands of images? Have you always sought visual stimulation and have you always been visually curious? What were some of the things that interested you as a child?

ALEX WEBB: It’s always a little hard to have any kind of perspective about one’s self and evaluate the influences on one’s work.  But I’ll make a stab at it.

I’m quite sure that how I photograph was greatly influenced by my upbringing. I come from a family of artists: my mother is a sculptor and draftsman; my father, though a publisher and editor, was also a writer; my brother is a painter; and my sister, who partially escaped the family’s artistic tradition by studying biology, ended up becoming an ornithological illustrator as well as an author of illustrated children’s books.  Art was everywhere in our house when we were growing up: whether we were hanging out in my mother’s studio, listening to my father discuss fiction, or going to museums with both parents.  So from an early age I was exposed to all kinds of visual and literary stimulation.  As a child and well into my teen years, I tried to paint, to sculpt, and — especially later on, and somewhat more seriously — to write fiction.  Fortunately the world was spared these efforts and I became a photographer.

But that predominantly explains something about the urge to become an artist — it doesn’t explain the particular nature of how I see the world as a photographer.  I suspect that early exposure to various modernist painters — especially De Chirico and the Cubists — influenced how I see.  Their paintings still rattle about in the back of my head.  And of course I have been deeply influenced by the stream of street photographers, from Cartier-Bresson and Kertesz on to Frank and Friedlander.  And there are writers — Graham Greene, Conrad, Garcia Marquez, Vargas Llosa — whose vision of the world has certainly influenced where I have chosen to work and how I perceive some of my chosen locales.  But I think there may be a further, ultimately more personal, influence.  My father was an incredibly nuanced thinker, a man who often discovered  alternative perceptions, who seemed drawn to complexity.  I don’t think I inherited the conceptual complexity of his way of thinking — I’m certainly not the thinker he was –  but perhaps something about his attitude toward the world, his embrace of complexity, wore off on me.  As a photographer I am always looking for more — more elements that qualify or transform the image.  This is not just a drive towards visual complexity for complexity’s sake — it is something ultimately more philosophical.  And in that sense perhaps it parallels something about how my father seemed to perceive the world.

AW, Tijuana, Mexico, 1999, from "Crossings"

 

ON WORKING NEAR VS. FAR; ON UNPEOPLED FRAMES

MGJ: Alex: Is it easier to photograph away from your own environment? If so, why?

AW: I don’t think it is easier or more difficult to photograph away from one’s own environment.  It’s just different.  That said, I think that in the act of photographing, when there is that sudden moment of recognition, when somehow all those elements come together and become a photograph, I think it’s pretty much the same. It’s just that the process of getting to the moment is different.

In the mid-seventies after graduating from college, I felt that my photographs were becoming dead, predictable. I began to look outside of the world of New England and New York that I had been photographing.  I went to Haiti, to northern Mexico, eventually to other parts of the Caribbean and Latin America.  I discovered worlds where life seemed to be lived on the stoop and in the street, a world of immediacy and energy, far from the gray-brown reticence of New England.  The brilliant light and intense color that I discovered in these places compelled me to eventually start working in color, which I continue to do to the present.

Was it easier to choose this route than another?  Not necessarily.  Some of the places I have chosen to work in are resistant to photography.  Others less so.  But it was the right route for me at that time for my work.

Now, however, having wandered the globe for some thirty years, I am interested in returning to the United States and photographing more here.  Will it be easier?  More difficult?  I don’t know for sure.  I think it’s always very difficult to take truly interesting photographs.

CB:  Rebecca, in your layout for your upcoming book, My Dakota,  I see that you have included few images with people in them. In The Glass Between Us, however, you include many images of people but they are primarily reflected images. Why have you made these choices in each book?

RNW: As I mention in my introduction to “The Glass Between Us”, this work began thanks to a serendipitous visit to the Coney Island aquarium, where I saw a beluga whale that appeared to be floating high over the heads of a group of people, whose images were reflected in the glass tank.  I first thought, “I’ll get rid of that reflection,” and then realized, “No, that’s what’s interesting…the relationship between the people looking at the whale and the creature itself.” The project expanded from aquariums to zoos to natural history museums.  Many of the photographs are of reflections of people on glass aquarium tanks or the glass walls of monkey houses, capturing the moment when the person was spontaneously responding to the animal he or she was watching.  So the literal reflection on the glass is also a kind of musing/reflection on the nature of the relationship between a particular animal and a particular viewer/visitor.

Yet, even in this body of work, two of my favorite images contain no people at all, merely the vestiges of them:  a faded African savannah mural painted in the 1930’s on the walls of the giraffe enclosure in a Paris zoo; the crooked seams of a crudely-sewn belly of a giraffe specimen in an Italian natural history museum.

Thinking about those images now, I wonder if they in some small way helped to prepare me –– unconsciously, creatively, intuitively –– for what I could not possibly be prepared for –– how to respond to the unexpected death of my first immediate family member, my older brother, Dave.  I don’t know the answer, or even if there is an answer.  What I do know is that, thankfully, I felt compelled to take my camera back to my home state of South Dakota during those darkest days of my life.

That’s not say that I always managed to push the shutter. Some days, all I did was drive and drive and drive, often without encountering another human being for miles. So a major reason this work is relatively unpeopled is because that reflects my actual experience photographing this sparsely-populated Great Plains state.  That said, in many of these images, there’s often signs of people –– a tinted car window in the badlands, a faded painted teepee on a ruined Lakota motel, an animal skeleton on a barbed wire fence near Pine Ridge.  I guess you could say that “My Dakota” is inhabited by the abandoned belongings and other traces of people, something that may well begin to explain the work’s elegiac tone.

Matthew Goddard-Jones, from "Pastimes"

 

Matthew Goddard-Jones is a freelance photographer based in Western Australia, who studied graphic design at the London College of Printing. Always seeking to challenge himself to develop as a photographer, he has recently attended Magnum workshops in Australia and New York.

Matthew is passionate about documenting people in their own environments, and is currently working on a long-term project “Pastimes,” documenting the changing face of the sports, hobbies, and other activities in Western Australia. He has exhibited widely.

Matthew’s website

Carolyn Beller, Burma, 2008

 

Carolyn Beller is a native of Montgomery, Alabama and graduated from Tulane University with an M.F.A. in Studio Art and a minor in Art History.  She has lived, worked and studied art, language and interior design in Italy, France, Japan, Austria and New York. Carolyn has been making utilitarian pottery since 1980. She has maintained a pottery studio and taught art in Chicago where she now lives with her husband and three dogs.

Carolyn’s work in photography started in earnest in 2006. In her own words:

“In 2006, I traveled to Rwanda to fulfill my childhood dream of seeing Mountain Gorillas in the wild. Returning home I began to read everything I could find about the history and the people of Rwanda and promised myself that, one day, I would return with more knowledge and a “real” camera. Later that year I traveled to the Terai in western Nepal to work on a pottery project with the indigenous Tharu people who are hunter-gatherers well known for their ancient skills as artisans.

I took my first digital SLR on that trip and realized that a camera could be an invaluable tool to see deeper into a people and their culture.  Photography has opened my eyes even wider.  I am amazed by the world everyday.”

Carolyn has attended photography workshops, and studied with Nevada Wier, Catherine Karnow, Jay Maisel, David Alan Harvey, Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb.  She has traveled to Laos, Thailand, Myanmar, Turkey, and throughout the U.S to study and to make photographs.

Last year, she returned to Rwanda with a “real” camera.

CAROLYN’S WEBSITE

TWO EVENTS: Slide Talk and Book Signing

September 22, 2010

AW, Havana, 2008, from "Violet Isle"

Please join us for our joint slide talk, TOGETHER AND APART, at 11 AM in the Ambassador Room on Saturday, September 25th , at the South Dakota Festival of Books in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. We will present a variety of work, including a selection of photographs from our joint book, Violet Isle: A Duet of Photographs from Cuba.  We’ll discuss other bodies of work as well, 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 My Dakota (Rebecca’s upcoming book), which is an elegy for Rebecca’s brother who died unexpectedly.   We  will also attend two book signings –– featuring Dave Eggers, Pete Dexter, NPR’s Deborah Amos, among other noted authors –– on Friday and Saturday.–– Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb

RNW, Havana, 2008, from "Violet Isle"

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


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