Archive for January, 2011

TWO LINKS: BLUE Exhibition

January 31, 2011

Alec Von Bargen, "Everyone is Gone," Jurors' Selection

As curators of the “Blue” exhibition at the Center for Fine Art Photography in Ft. Collins, Colorado, we’d like to thank the 38 photographers who participated in the exhibition, as well as extend our thanks to executive director, Hamidah Glasgow, for asking us to co-curate the show.

This week on the “Two Looks” blog, we are featuring a selection of work from the exhibition, including photographs by Alec Von Bargen (Jurors’ Selection), Andrea Tess (Jurors’ Honorable Mention) and Kirsten Hoving (Jurors’ Honorable Mention), as well as Erin Sweeny (Director’s Selection) and Jamie Saunders (Director’s Honorable Mention).  Here’s where you’ll find the complete “Blue” exhibition selection, and below is our Juror’s Statement for the show. Lastly, here’s a link to a Q&A with us at the London Telegraph online, which also features additional work from the “Blue” show.

We enjoyed meeting all the participants through their work, and regret we couldn’t attend the opening due to our hectic schedule this winter overseeing the production of Alex’s upcoming survey book. — Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb

Andrea Tess, from "After," Jurors' Honorable Mention

BLUE:  Jurors’ Statement

As the economic recession continues to linger, it colors our already fragile landscape of environmental, societal, and personal loss.  Unlike many of its sister arts, photography is uniquely suited to capturing the delicate palette of that which is in the process of vanishing out of sight –– be it endangered species or cultures, people or places, lifestyles or landscapes.  In addition, the medium also records the individual photographer’s specific and sometimes complicated response to this diminishing.  If our current time –– this 21st Century “loss zeitgeist” –– was tinged with a color, it makes sense it would be blue.

Blue is a many-faceted jewel of a color, each facet suggesting a different shading of color and mood, concept and association, not unlike the many faces of loss itself.  Blue –– and “the blues” –– can bring to mind a deep longing, an ache even, an emptiness that paradoxically has heft, too.  Blue can also suggest those light, ethereal, nearly transparent hues lying at the far side of grief –– inspired, spiritual even –– shades able to mesmerize, to transport us into the wide blue yonder of reverie.  The more we try to describe the multitudinous blue in words, however, the more it seems to confound and, ultimately, escape us.

So, what better way to catch a glimmer of blue’s crystalline quality that to present multiple points of view of this elusive, many-faceted jewel of a hue?

Together, the 38 diverse and talented photographers in this exhibit have done just that, given their personal interpretation of blue –– from its various hues to the many moods and concepts and associations that can accompany it.  Since collaborating with the world is also one of photography’s unique strengths, this exhibition also includes images taken in some 20 different countries.  Blue –– and its often companion, loss –– can be international, too.

What remains after “Everybody’s Gone”?  This is the question Alec Von Bargen’s spare Icelandic landscape seems to ask the viewer.  Taken after the country’s recent economic collapse triggered a mass exodus, Von Bargen’s image is solely peopled by two faceless cowboys painted on a mural, one astride a rearing horse, one standing in the background, both beckoning nonexistent tourists to fill in the blanks with their own smiling camera faces.  Instead, the two empty holes stare silently off into the distance, one filled with blue sky, the other, with ocean.  Is this the answer to the photograph’s quiet question?  Could it be that absence itself is blue?

Andrea Tese’s interpretation of blue feels more visceral –– like the fresh, blue-black bruise of recent loss.  Tese’s moving portraits –– including the raw, vulnerable portrait of a young woman who looks like she’s been crying  –– are part of her series called “After,” which explores those moments that occur in the long shadow cast by loss and love and life’s many complicated experiences. “These images are scenes of loss, decay, and departed desire,” writes the emerging photographer, who recently had her first New York City solo show.

“Melancholy is sadness that has taken on lightness,” the Italian writer, Italo Calvino once wrote.  This line aptly describes the mood of Kirsten Hoving’s surreal and mesmerizing interpretation of blue, “Fallen Angel.”  This image, although taken recently at her local Vermont county fair, blurs the boundaries between now and then, dream and reality, like the dim light of dusk itself, thanks in part to Hoving’s intelligent, surprising, and whimsical eye. “In the past,” Hoving notes, “the edge of the midway was the site of ‘girlie shows’ and strip-tease acts.  Today, the fallen women can be found bungee-jumping.”–Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb, jurors of the “Blue” exhibition.

Kirsten Hoving, "Fallen Angel," Jurors' Honorable Mention

Erin Sweeny, Director's Selection

Jamie Saunders, "Come and Go," Director's Honorable Mention

TWO VIEWS: “The Snow Man”

January 27, 2011

Alex Webb, Brooklyn, 2011

In celebration of last night’s snow storm — and the snowiest January in NYC history — we’re posting some of Alex’s photographs taken early the morning after in our Park Slope neighborhood, accompanied by Rebecca’s reading of Wallace Stevens’ “The Snow Man,” filmed by Alex.

We’re dedicating the column today to Deborah Baril, Rebecca’s sister, in celebration of another event — her birthday.–– Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb

The Snow Man


One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

Alex Webb, Brooklyn, January, 2011

Alex Webb, Brooklyn, January, 2011

Alex Webb, Brooklyn, January, 2011

Alex Webb, Brooklyn, January, 2011

TWO THANKS: Violet Isle

January 24, 2011

Rebecca Norris Webb, "Violet Isle" cover, Radius Books

We have some good news to share:  VIOLET ISLE was selected as one of the “Best Books of 2010” on the Photo-Eye website by independent curator/photography blogger, Elizabeth Avedon.  We’re pleased and honored to be included among such photographers as Alec Soth, Martin Parr, Sally Mann, Lee Friedlander, Tim Hetherington, Taryn Simon, Jean Gaumy, Mark Powers, Jason Fulford, Thomas Demand, David Taylor, Alessandra Sanguinetti, Carl De Keyzer, and others.  To read more about the various authors and books, visit the Photo-Eye site. Thanks so much, Elizabeth.

And thanks again to award-winning Cuban poet, Reina Maria Rodriguez, for allowing us to use her wonderful quote below in VIOLET ISLE.  Recently Reina, who lives in Havana (she’s photographed below), received our gift to her — a copy of our book, whose title was inspired by the title poem of one of Reina’s poetry books. –– Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb

fue una ciudad con puerto

donde ya no se ha ido ni ha vuelto nadie más…

–de “Violet Island” por la poeta cubana, Reina María Rodríguez

once it was a city with a port

where now no one else has come or gone…

–from “Violet Island” by Cuban poet, Reina María Rodríguez


January 17, 2011

We’d like to thank all the photographers we met at the Hong Kong workshop for sharing their photographs with us.  We hope to return to Hong Kong — perhaps in the fall of 2012. — Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb

Yat Lee, Hong Kong Workshop, 2011

ON PRESS: Cover Stories 2; The Last Detour

January 15, 2011

Just finished with the cover — or at least as much as we can do at this point — since the orange cloth won’t be added until after we leave Hong Kong (you can see a mock up of the cover of the French edition in the top right-hand corner of the first photograph below).

Alex Webb, Hong Kong, 2011

So, we end as we began, with yet another detour.  We — and all of you — will have to wait another three to four weeks to see a photograph of the final cover, when the first bound copies of “The Suffering of Light” finally reach us back in Brooklyn.

Thanks for all your comments and questions and support during the birth of this most recent book. Rebecca and I are leaving you with one last quote below, which, of course, is about detours.—Alex Webb

“[One’s creative] work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence [one’s] heart first opened.” ––Albert Camus

Alex Webb, Self Portrait, Hong Kong, 2011

ON PRESS: On Goethe and Time

January 14, 2011

ON PRESS: Cover Stories 1; Jet Lag

January 14, 2011

Deciding on a cover image for a book of photographs from thirty years can be a little daunting.  Rebecca and I considered many possibilities, but we always came back to this particular image, the back cover of my first book, “Hot Light/Half-Made Worlds,” and  the only photograph in the survey book from India.

It looks like we won’t see the actual cover of “The Suffering of Light,” until the last day on press; however, since like many cover images, a version of this photograph also appears in the interior of the book, we have already done a press check on this version, a video clip of which you’ll find below.–Alex Webb

Alex and I often encourage photographers to try to “work from the unconscious,” to respond spontaneously to the world, to photograph “on one’s nerves” in order to remain open enough to find and make one’s most unique and dynamic images.

The good thing – and probably the most challenging thing — about being on press in Hong Kong is that working half unconsciously happens rather effortlessly – whether one wants to or not.  Checking test sheets at 4pm in Hong Kong, you can’t help but feel the strong, tidal-like pull of sleep, since 4PM is 3AM in New York City.  It’s nearly impossible to get over such severe jet lag in a week.

Maybe being half awake/half asleep on press in the topsy turvy world of Hong Kong isn’t such a bad thing.  Perhaps it’s just a short cut to collaborating with one’s own unconscious.—Rebecca Norris Webb

Rebecca Norris Webb, photograph of "Monterrey, Mexico, 1985," by Alex Webb

On Press: Out of Gamut; A Touch of Black

January 13, 2011

Alex Webb, Matthew Pimm signs off, Hong Kong, 2011

Working with Matthew Pimm, head of production at Aperture, who is on press with us in Hong Kong, is always an education.  He’s made me much more aware of the possibilities — as well as the  limitations — of four color printing.  The limitations come up somewhat regularly with my photographs, which are often taken in extreme or mixed light, sometimes producing colors that are unusual or surprising.  As I understand it, the four color dot system simply can’t reproduce certain hues, certain tones that may exist in a continuous tone photograph.  Now, having worked with Matthew on two books, I smile to myself a bit when he tells me, as we’re looking at a particularly deep Kodachrome red — or a strange, intense blue — that the color is “out of gamut.”      Over the years, I’ve learned to translate this phrase of Matthew’s describing those colors of mine most difficult to reproduce, as  — in my best  Brooklynese — “Fuhgeddaboutit, Alex!”

Most of the time, however, a small adjustment will make the image sing, which is what happened with this image (below) of the child with cotton candy (the cover of the Istanbul book) after we added just a touch of black.–Alex Webb

ON PRESS: On Waiting…

January 12, 2011

Being on press involves a lot of waiting: waiting for the plates and press to be prepared, waiting for the pressmen to make initial inking adjustments, waiting for  further inking adjustments at the direction of  the production team, and, finally, waiting for the run to be completed (sometimes compounded by alternate plates inserted for foreign editions).  And then the process begins all over again.  With this book, which has 17 signatures, that’s 34 set-ups plus delays on each run for two foreign editions (French and Italian).  That’s a lot of waiting, even for a photographer like myself, who spends so much of his life waiting and watching for photographs.

So how does a photographer try to break up this monotony? The obvious way: I took this photograph while meandering through the maze of the printing plant. — Alex Webb

Alex Webb, Hong Kong, 2011

The funny thing about waiting around on press with all these amazing photographs of Alex’s — even the street outside the printing plant is beginning to look like an Alex Webb photograph. –Rebecca Norris Webb

ON PRESS: Alex Webb’s 30 Years of Color

January 10, 2011


Over the next few days, Rebecca and I are going to be posting some images and rough, diaristic video about the experience of being on press in Hong Kong for my survey book of 30 years of color photographs:”The Suffering of Light.”  This is the fourth time in five years that Rebecca and I –– who edit and sequence our books together ––have been on press for either one of our individual books or our joint book.

For me, putting together a survey book of 30 years of photographs has been rewarding but also a little unsettling: while on the one hand I am looking forward to printing this upcoming book, on the other hand, I am filled with the doubts that accompany a book that reflects much of my photographic life.

Inevitably, there have already been a few detours.  Our flight to Tokyo was delayed, and as a result we missed our connection into Hong Kong and had to spend the night at a hotel near the Narita Airport. On the flight the next day, however, thanks to unusually good weather, we had a rare sighting of Mount Fuji, which Rebecca photographed with her new ipod touch (a remarkable little invention.)  And, because we’d purposely scheduled an extra travel day, we haven’t lost any time on press for the book.

Let’s just hope any other unexpected detours on press end up so well.––Alex Webb

Rebecca Norris Webb, Mt.Fuji, Japan, 2011

RNW, Narita Airport hotel, Japan, 2011

Alex Webb, "Rebecca," Hong Kong, 2011