This week we are featuring the work of S.M. MAES and SHAUN ROBERTS, two participants in the THE PHOTO PROJECT WORKSHOP that we conducted this past October. In this workshop, we work with the participants to help them shape a project into a more coherent form, ultimately into a handmade book dummy. This process involves working with participants to edit and sequence their work, and pushing them to try to come to grips with the core or heart of their project. In addition, Rebecca, who is a writer and text editor as well as photographer, helps the participants write an artist statement and find a title. Lastly, we introduce workshop participants to the process of working with a designer. Each photographer meets with a designer early in the week, who then creates two covers for their work-in-progress by the end of the workshop.
Here are two of these cover selections –– along with their accompanying artist statements and titles ––one from Belgian street photographer, S.M. Maes, and the other, from the San Francisco-based photographer and director, Shaun Roberts. Over the course of the next six months or so, we will publish the other covers produced in the workshop. There will also be an exhibition in New York, hopefully next spring, of all the covers plus one framed print from each of the projects at the Caption Gallery in Brooklyn.
We expect to give the workshop on an annual basis in Brooklyn the last week in October. To stay updated about this and other Webb Workshops, please request to be added to the WEBB WORKSHOP EMAIL LIST. You’ll find the details at the end of this blog posting.––Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb
AMBIGUOUS CITY: Photographs from Antwerp
By S.M. Maes
“[Antwerp is] ambiguous—a vibrant blossoming culture on top, and a rusty brown sentiment beneath the cobblestones…Like every city, there is a visible one, and one where only its inhabitants can lead you.”––Ramsey Nasr, city poet of Antwerp
“..the people who move through the streets are all strangers. At each encounter, they imagine a thousand things about one another; meetings, which could take place between them, conversations, surprises, caresses, bites. But no one greets anyone; eyes lock for a second, then dart away, seeking other eyes, never stopping…something runs among them, an exchange of glances like lines that connect one figure with another and draw arrows, stars, triangles, until all combinations are used up in a moment, and other characters come on to the scene… ” ––Italo Calvino, from “Invisible Cities”
The act of taking a picture to me is an attempt at transforming the city around me into the city I ‘feel,’ as it were. This city is out there, imagined by me somehow, and reveals itself in glimpses. It’s a city that is characterized by a strange and an alluring complexity –– a city in which different people, situations, actions, moods, and emotions intersect. Because of this complexity, there is no singular story to be told, but two or three or multiple stories, all existing simultaneously. Hence there is no need to search for a single ending or resolution or meaning. One would only get lost. ––S.M. Maes
Photographs by Shaun Roberts
“Healing,” Papa would tell me, “ is not a science, but the intuitive art
of wooing nature.” – W.H. Auden
This project grew from a need to make sense of the world around me after having suffered a personal loss in my life. A close friend and poet offered the above W.H. Auden quote to consider. I found comfort in these words that quietly stuck with me, even if I didn’t fully grasp their meaning.
Again in again, in Shanghai, Bangkok, San Francisco, New York, where ever I traveled for the next few years, I found myself drawn to the undeniable grace of strangers. Some passed me in a fraction of a second, barely enough for an exposure — while others eventually I had the privilege of getting to know.
The images they offered me – gathered together in this book – mysteriously but consistently wooed me away from the pain and the isolation. They showed me how to fall in love with the world –– person by person, moment by moment, frame by frame –– all over again.––Shaun Roberts
To stay updated about the next PHOTO PROJECT WORKSHOP, which is not posted yet, please request to be added to the WEBB WORKSHOP EMAIL LIST by emailing Rebecca at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tags: Alex Webb, Ambiguous City, Antwerp, Auden's Words, Brooklyn, Caption Gallery, Invisible Cities, Italio Calvino, Photo Project Workshop, Ramsey Nasr, Rebecca Norris Webb, S.M. Maes, Shaun Roberts, Unbound, W.H. Auden, Webb Workshop