Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 1997/08/05

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Subject: Re: Alex Webb
From: George Huczek <>
Date: Tue, 05 Aug 1997 08:19:05 -0600

At 01:57 PM 05/08/97 +0300, you wrote:
>So here is a Leica photographer, probably well known for many of you.
>Shoots exclusively in color and has a distinctive style I think.
>A style that I cannot quite figure out. Streetscenes rendered boldly
>under an intense sun. Large colorpatches often being the main visual
>elements dominating the people or the pieces of them visible. Bits of
>life here and there. Its chaos, its absurdity, with some order and
>rythm through composition. Uses M and I'm quite sure none could capture
>those scenes with anything else than a rangefinder. You just have to
>see it all. And be there and blindingly fast when things come together.
>Sometimes I think that he is a genius, sometimes I think that he is
>just a juvenile with an expensive camera. At times that he takes the
>"decisive moment" to a new level but then feel that he trivializes
>life and takes it's dignity away. Great BW never seems to do that.
>What do you think? I don't mean intellectually. Rather, does this stuff
>move you? Do you remember these images afterwards or just the BW?

He certainly has a style, but not necessarily one which is entirely unique
and instantaneously recognizable.  It falls within a genre of
photojournalism which others in Magnum and NG especially seemed to follow.
I would not say that his photos trivialize life.  His pictures from Haiti,
for example, depict a way of life which has been stripped of its dignity.

   Blood-stained corpses lying in the middle of a deserted street, where
others hide for fear of reprisals from the secret police, shows how
difficult it was to set up "free and democratic" elections in that country.
 That was the reality of life there.  Looking at a culture from the eyes of
an outsider, allowed him to see things that those immersed within the
culture normally take for granted.

   There is no slick, artificial composition.  The photos are raw and their
power comes from their content.  In pictorial work, a few power lines
running through the top of a photo, or some misplaced trash might spoil the
picture.  In real life, the dirt and the corruption and the sleaze are part
of the reality that is being depicted.  Unlike Allard, there are strong
elements of boldness of colour and strict compositional framing in some of
Webb's photos.  His style can shift from one form to another, depending on
the subject matter and mood.

   Not all people are moved by that type of photography, admittedly, but
the lasting nature of the images suggests quite strongly that there is an
audience out there that needs to be shown the graphic, grim reality that
faces many in all parts of the world.  This is not a trivialization of
life.  It is a recognition of how life is in many underdeveloped nations.
It is stark and naked.

- -GH