Posts Tagged ‘On Collaboration’

VIOLET ISLE: On Collaboration

October 28, 2009
Alex Webb, Havana, Cuba, 2008

Alex Webb, Havana, Cuba, 2008

For the book and exhibition of Violet Isle, we chose to collaborate in order to create a more complicated and multi-layered portrait of Cuba, one that explores not just the streets of this Caribbean island, but also the relationship between Cubans and the natural world.  Interweaving our work, we discovered, expanded upon our understanding of Cuba, upon the notion of an island in a kind of bubble — a political, economic, social, and ecological bubble –– the latter, which scientists now say, may protect Cuba environmentally because of the dearth of cars and plastics and other consumer goods.  This collaboration also allowed us to embrace visually and conceptually the enigma of Cuba, what Pico Iyer calls, the “ambiguous island.”

Ultimately, we feel our Cuba photographs interwoven in the book or exhibited together –– with their echoes and tensions and cracks and contradictions –– create a more dynamic and complex portrait of the violet isle, a place prone to both political and romantic cliches, than either of our bodies of work shown separately.  That’s what we found so fascinating and mysterious and humbling about collaborating on this project.

“Cracks are a given between one collaborator and another,” the poet CD Wright once wrote about her collaboration with the photographer Deborah Luster, “that’s how the light gets in.”––Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb

Rebecca Norris Webb, Havana, Cuba, 2008

Rebecca Norris Webb, Havana, Cuba, 2008

Leading up to the book launch/opening of Violet Isle, we will be posting on a more regular basis between now and Thursday, Nov. 5th. We welcome your thoughtful questions and insightful comments, especially those about Cuba, Violet Isle, collaboration, and the process of making books.––AW and RNW

INTERVIEW: David Alan Harvey’s 7 Questions

October 16, 2009

This is an excerpt from today’s interview with us conducted by David Alan Harvey of Burn Magazine:

DAH: Both of you have heretofore been solo artists. What sacrifices did you make and/or what benefits are there to a collaboration?

AW: From my perspective, the sacrifices were not great. Early on working in Cuba, I envisioned doing my own book, but I also wanted to do something different  –– something unlike any of my past books, as well as something different from any of the many past photographic books on Cuba. When Rebecca and I hit upon the notion of combining our work, this resolved these concerns of mine. I also found it very exciting to weave our two different bodies of work together to create a different kind of portrait of the island. In fact, I am more excited about this book than any other book of mine since Hot Light/Half-Made Worlds, my first book, which came out in 1986.

RNW:  I was initially concerned that my fascination with Cuba was taking valuable time away from a project that I had always thought would be my second book, My Dakota, a project that had started out as an exploration of my relationship with the West––and specifically my home state of South Dakota––and ended up also becoming an elegy for my brother, Dave.  Now, I realize that bringing out the Cuba book before My Dakota was the right decision.  I needed more time and distance from my brother’s death to absorb and distill and let go of My Dakota.

And, David, you also asked about the benefits of doing Violet Isle with Alex….  Well, for one thing, it’s awfully nice having only half as many interview questions to answer.

Next Monday, our blog posting will be: “TWO LOOKS: Charles Harbutt and Joan Liftin”

TWO LOOKS: Alex and Rebecca

September 28, 2009

This is the first of an occasional column we are calling “Two Looks,” in which we will feature a creative couple’s work.  For this column, we’ll have each person select one example of his or her partner’s work to write about.  Not unexpectedly, the first column is called “Two Looks: Alex and Rebecca.” ––Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb


Alex Webb, Havana, 1993

Alex Webb, Havana, 1993

This quiet photograph of Alex’s has grown into one of my favorites in our Cuba book.  Partly, it’s because it’s the only “portrait” in Violet Isle of Fidel, which I like for a couple of reasons.  One is that it’s very indicative of the island itself, where one sees plenty of posters and billboards celebrating Che Guevara and José Martí, but few of Fidel Castro himself.  And I love the little surprise in the photo, that at first you think his right index finger is raised in the air because he’s in the midst of giving a speech or perhaps even admonishing someone (especially with the word, “Silencio,” posted on the wall to the left of the portrait), and then you notice, upon closer inspection, that his right finger is actually poised in the air because he’s playing chess.  And lastly, I find myself drawn to the sparseness and simplicity of this interior –– the drab yet welcoming yellow walls and the forlorn blue of the fan –– because it seems somehow quintessentially Cuban.––Rebecca Norris Webb


Rebecca Norris Webb, Havana, 2008

Rebecca Norris Webb, Havana, 2008

What is it about this photograph from a rooftop in Havana that so intrigues me?  Part of it is that it initially feels like a street photograph: a dominant figure in the foreground, a little figure deep in the background, with the activity centered on the latter.  This seems at first to be familiar photographic territory.  But what totally confounds my expectations is that these figures are not human, but animals, fighting cocks. And even more startling is that the rooster in the background –– his legs shaved, his wings flapping ––  looks like a little man, arms akimbo.  Then I see that he is tied to a cement block.  I am immersed in that strange, sometimes unsettling, and often beautiful world that Rebecca so often seems to discover –– her territory –– where sometimes the dramas in the natural world feel somehow human, and where sometimes her images lift off into metaphor.––Alex Webb