Alex Webb: « The Suffering of Light »

the appeal of Street Photography still alludes me, and while I truly admire some of the work/ideas from Henri Cartier-Bresson and Brassaï, I do not find much that captures my appreciation**, never mind the “I wish I could do that”. then there are two books from Alex Webb that hold my attention, and appreciate that Decisive Moment and/or the use of shadows. one such example is shown below, and example of the use of geometry and shadow at the link below, where everything is right… and what finally makes me connect with me is the hand in on the tree. the sails and other hands pointing seem to play on the tree, as other forms of limbs/leaves, and while there are other people in the frame, it is the hand that offers the biggest clue of a human essence. I think that moment, and all else about the photo, which makes it quite brilliant. it was hard to choose one photo, as with his book on Mexico called « La Calle ».


** yes, Saul Leiter is definitely street photography, and my favorite photographer, yet with him, the street is a canvas, not so much within what Street Photography usually conveys with the luminaries in the field.


link: Alex Webb at Magnum Photo, with 120 sample images from The Suffering of Light.


HAITI. Etroits, La Gonave. 1986.
HAITI. Etroits, La Gonave. 1986 by Alex Webb

6 Comments Add yours

  1. greg says:

    Street photography is such an elastic term that it almost has no meaning at all. And yet, it’s the style of photography I find most excites my interest. Maybe because it’s not natural to me.


    1. singlyphoto says:

      yes, the same with «New Topographics», even within one photographer. and I agree, it is a style that pulls me (even if I think I cannot do it), just like «New Topographics». in my case too, they are not natural, and hard to recognize the potential… though, Street Photography is quite fleeting… decisive in its moment, if you will.


      1. greg says:

        I know this is going to sound crazy, but I think there’s a sort of spiritual link between New Topo and street photography. They’re both about finding something intriguing in the mundane., something that would be overlooked if a camera wasn’t there. With New Topo, it’s the mundane surface lifted out of context (because ALL photos are necessarily out of context); with street work it’s the mundane moment lifted out of context.

        I told you it would sound crazy.


      2. singlyphoto says:

        dude, that sounds crazy! do you share this view with family at gatherings?

        but, I can do one over that take. well, maybe not in public.

        I agree completely with you in that: it is lifting something out of the mundane that people overlook. I think I have then placed a demand on that, which is not in the intent of those styles: show me something to connect, like a detail that pulls some strings. this pulling of string can even be a cliché— notably the drops on glass or umbrellas— because the canvas of street (chaotic) or New Topo (minimalism) is right for it. this is about what I like in other photographic styles, or ways of seeing, which offers neither of the chaos or minimalism, and perhaps subverts what others may want to be highlighted or in focus. (a bit like the hand in this AW photo.)

        ok, so maybe I said more than I wanted in public.


  2. greg says:

    You know, we sorta kinda had a variation of this discussion three years ago, when I made up a progression from New Topo to Neo-New Topo to Nouveau Neo-New Topo to Oblique Nouveau Neo-New Topo. I think we both have an interest in surface mapping, but prefer a layered surface. Or layered surfaces. The suggestion of depth.


    1. singlyphoto says:

      yes, yes! now I remember that conversation. I still remember the term “surface mapping” as being encompassing to both of our interests, while including our non-overlaps. I now wondering how things have changed from me… as I have not thought in ONNNT terms for quite some time, but still I think it is there. the only difference I can surmise extemporaneously is that of a heavier interest in “hiding” with shadows which is certainly oblique, and perhaps orthogonal, with relation to New Topo and Neo-New Topo. thus, I may be within Oblique with some Orthogonal tendencies thus still true to ONNNT.


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