Posts Tagged ‘The Glass Between Us’

BLOW Photo Magazine: Animal Issue

November 26, 2013
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Rebecca Norris Webb, Istanbul, 2003, from “The Glass Between Us,” in the special animal issue of the Irish BLOW Photo Magazine

Congratulations to Rebecca for having a selection of “The Glass Between Us” featured in the Irish BLOW Photo Magazine’s special issue about animals.  You can read the editor introduction to the issue here: http://www.blowphotomagazine.com/issues/issue-nine/  You will also find an excerpt from the magazine’s Q&A with her below.—Alex Webb

Blow: What did your experience making this series teach you about animals and about people’s relationships to them in cities?

RNW: In the U.S. alone, more people visit zoos than all paid sporting events combined, which is a startling and thought-provoking fact. Looking back at The Glass Between Us, I hope my exploration of this complex relationship between people and animals in cities helps to illuminate some of its many facets and, hopefully, begins to raise questions about zoos, aquariums, and natural history museums, and our need for them.

Some of the images in this series evoke the aestheticized surfaces — such as colorful, hand-painted murals or dioramas — that often seduce us when we visit these places.  Others suggest something darker lurking beneath the surface, such as the hint of violence or suffering, as in this photograph of an agitated lion pausing between rounds of his thunderous, insistent bellowing in his tight quarters at the Istanbul zoo.  Other photographs raise questions of identity  — that blurry boundary between human beings and animals — such as this somewhat abstracted image from a natural history museum in Turin.  At first glance, it looks eerily like a pregnant woman with a tail, when, in fact, it’s actually an antiquated giraffe specimen that’s been crudely sewn.

Yet, sometimes it’s a sense of wonder that my camera captures, such as this image of the two shy Muslim women mesmerized by the jellyfish at the Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut. Since this book focuses on the complicated relationship between people and animals in cities, wonder is definitely part of that complex equation.  “Wonderment never quite gets used to whatever it is looking at,” notes the critic Charles Baxter.

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©Rebecca Norris Webb, “Turin, Italy, 2003″ from “The Glass Between Us” in the November issue of Blow Photo Magazine

Leica Store Miami/Artisan Obscura Scholarship

One tuition-free scholarship to attend the upcoming Finding Your Vision @ Leica Store Miami weekend workshop with Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb, Jan. 17-19, 2014

Open to all photographers 18 and older, professionals and serious amateurs alike.  Work by all kinds of photographers will be considered — from art photographers to documentary photographers, from college students to seasoned professionals — the only stipulation being that none of the images submitted have been dramatically altered digitally.

Scholarship Application Opens: Friday, Nov. 15, 2013

Deadline: Friday, November 29, 2013

Notification of winner: Saturday, December 7, 2013 

JUDGES: MaryAnne Golon, Washington Post Director of Photography and photographers Maggie Steber, Alex Webb, and Rebecca Norris Webb

TO ENROLL:  Please submit the following materials to the email address — webbnorriswebb@gmail.com — and write WORKSHOP SCHOLARSHIP on the subject line.

A. In the email, please include the following as a single word doc:

1. Name and email

2. 100 word statement about your series or project

3. 100 word bio, which includes your photographic background and website or online link to your photographs

4. Two names and emails of references of people familiar with your photographic work, such as professors, workshop teachers, fellow photographers, editors, curators, publishers.

B. Additionally, in this email please also attach 10 small jpgs from one project or series, each image10 inches on the longest side, 72 dpi

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©Rebecca Norris Webb, from “Violet Isle” (with Alex Webb) at the Southeast Museum of Photography, Daytona, FL, thru Feb. 2, 2014
“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, FL:

“Violet Isle”: 

http://www.smponline.org/ex_webb_violet.html#.Unzv1I3z0XQ

“My Dakota”: 

http://www.smponline.org/ex_webb_dakota.html#.UlVhFBZqN4Y

PUBLIC TALKS IN DECEMBER:  Tuesday, Dec. 3, at the Leica Store Miami and Thursday, Dec. 5th at the Miami Street Photography Festival

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©RNW, “Mystic, Ct.,” from “The Glass Between Us”

TEXT AND IMAGE: World Poetry Day

March 21, 2011

To celebrate WORLD POETRY DAY, we’ve decided to post one of Rebecca’s prose poems from her first book, “The Glass Between Us,” both in English and in Chinese, the latter thanks to the wonderful translation by fellow photographer and translator, Monica Lin, who is based in Hong Kong.  We are dedicating the poem to all the Chinese photographers we’ve met — both in the Hong Kong workshop, at our Hong Kong slide talk, and through the TWO LOOKS online photographic community.  In addition, since the poem takes place in the Caribbean, we decided to pair it with a relatively unknown photograph of Alex’s from Puerto Rico, which will appear in his new book, “The Suffering of Light.”–=Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb

Alex Webb, Pinones, Puerto Rico, 1990, from the book "The Suffering of Light"

Reflections: 4

Sailing in the Caribbean, I catch a mahi mahi.  It takes two men to lift its four-foot body from the sea.  On the hot teak deck, I watch the creature shift its tint, from teal to indigo to aquamarine, like having a tiny sea, beautiful and raging, at my bare feet.  As it flips and flops, I feel a little afraid of this great hulking dying thing.  I wish it would fly.  I wish it would be still.  I’m ashamed how hungry it makes me feel.

Within minutes, I slip a piece of deep red sushi between my lips.  The   freshest fish I’ve ever tasted, it is heavy and sweet and otherworldly, like a slice of mango or sex in the sun after swimming in the turquoise Caribbean.  What I hope my own death will taste like.—Rebecca Norris Webb, from the book, “The Glass Between Us”

镜像:4

航行在加勒比海,我捕到一条马头鱼。把这四英尺长的大家伙从海里拖上来竟需要兩個男人。在滚烫的柚木甲板上,我看着這個造物变换颜色,从湖蓝到靛蓝到海蓝,像我赤裸的足邊一處小小的海洋,美丽而狂暴。看着它拍打翻滚的样子,我突然有点害怕这个垂死的大家伙。我希望它飞。我希望它静止。我为自己因它而饥肠辘辘感到羞愧。

几分钟后,一块深红色的生鱼片滑进我的双唇。这是我尝过最新鲜的鱼肉了,它厚实、鲜甜、超凡脱俗,如同一片芒果,又像在宝石般的加勒比海水中暢泳之后開始的性爱。真希望自己的死亡也有同樣的味道—Rebecca Norris Webb, translated into Chinese by Monica Lin, from the book, “The Glass Between Us”

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 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 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?

POSTINGS: October 2009

October 12, 2009

This month we’re featuring two unpublished photos (one of Alex’s, one of Rebecca’s), two links (about Robert Frank and his NYC exhibition), two news items (including a review and a photography grant deadline), two views (a poet and a photographer respond to a shared struggle),  two farewells, and, lastly, two arts (a song inspired by a photograph). ––Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb

TWO PHOTOS: Unpublished

Alex Webb, Marrekech, October, 2009

Alex Webb, Marrekech, October, 2009

Rebecca Norris Webb, Wind Cave, August 2009

Rebecca Norris Webb, Wind Cave, August 2009

TWO LINKS: On Robert Frank

One of the first books of street photography that inspired me as a young photographer was Robert Frank’s The Americans.  It’s great to see that the Metropolitan Museum in New York is now exhibiting prints of the entirety of this remarkable book.––Alex Webb



The interview: Robert Frank and Met curator Jeff Rosenheim:

http://www.wnyc.org/shows/lopate/episodes/2009/09/29/segments/141587

The exhibition: “Looking In: Robert Frank’s The Americans”:

http://www.metmuseum.org/special/se_event.asp?OccurrenceId=%7B1FD57D4D-FE17-41FA-9025-E2667E36AD27%7D

TWO NEWS ITEMS: A photography grant deadline and a review:

Grant deadline/new book: From Sara Terry, photographer, and founder and director of the Aftermath Project: We’ve just come out with our second publication, “War is Only Half the Story, Vol Two,” featuring the stunning work of our 2008 grant winner Kathryn Cook (“Memory Denied: Turkey and the Armenian Genocide”) and finalists Natala Grigalashvili, Tinka Dietz, Christine Fenzl and Pep Bonet. In addition, we are now accepting applications for our fourth year of granting (2010); we’ll be giving out two grants, for $20,000 each. The application deadline is Nov 2nd — you can download the application on our website. “Vol Two” can be purchased online, for $20 plus $4 shipping/handling in the US or $15 airmail shipping/handling to any overseas address.  All proceeds will go to help support our activities; we operate on a shoestring, so purchases are a great way to help keep the Aftermath Project going — and to get a great book at the same time:  http://www.theaftermathproject.org/book.htm

Rebecca Norris Webb, Warsaw, 2005

Rebecca Norris Webb, Warsaw, 2005

Review: And below, here’s a link to a wonderful review of a Blue Earth Alliance exhibition at the Ansel Adams Gallery in Napa that features some of Rebecca’s work.  The article includes the story behind Rebecca’s photograph above, the last image she took for her book, The Glass Between Us.––Alex Webb

http://www.napavalleyregister.com/articles/2009/10/08/arts/doc4acc0bd13c7b0673682208.txt

TWO VIEWS: A Poet’s and a Photographer’s Response to a Shared Struggle

Since October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Alex and I wanted to feature two women we know and admire, two women who have not only battled breast cancer, but courageously and honestly and insightfully shared their experiences with all of us (through one woman’s photography and another’s poetry), enriching our lives and our awareness about breast cancer.  The two women are the photographer, Alexandra Avakian, and the poet, Carolyn Forche.––Rebecca Norris Webb

NYT Lens: Alexandra Avakian : A Camera as Therapy (NYT: October 2009)

And here is Carolyn Forche’s reading her poem, “What Comes” last spring: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XUI–rsmy9k

Alex Webb, U.S.-Mexico border, 1975

Alex Webb, U.S.-Mexico border, 1975

TWO FAREWELLS: Marty Forscher and Irving Penn

In 1975, after photographing on the U.S.-Mexico border, I returned to New York with one of my Leica M-2’s filled with grit.  I asked around about what I should do and the answer was unanimous: Visit Marty Forscher’s Professional Camera Repair on W. 47th Street.  So I dropped off my Leica at Marty’s, and a week later I returned to be met with much laughter and a question:  “Where were you?  We found a bug living in your camera!”

That was the first of many visits to the legendary camera repair shop of Marty Forscher.  When I read his obit in The New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/11/nyregion/11forscher.html), I felt a little saddened –– probably like photographers all over New York City –– to lose such a supporter, not only of cameras, but of photographers and photography as well. Yet, I couldn’t help but smile when I thought of my first trip to Marty’s nearly 35 years ago.––Alex Webb

Irving Penn, Fashion Photographer, Is Dead at 92 (NYT: October 6, 2009)

TWO ARTS: Music and Photography

Alex and I often talk about how sequencing photographs to create a book is a lot like composing music: a big book is a symphony; a little book, a sonata. So we thought you might be interested in taking a look at this process turned upside down: Here’s a video about how a photograph inspired the creation of a song.––Rebecca Norris Webb

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=113659105


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