Alex Webb’s latest monograph The Suffering of Light, published by Aperture in spring of 2011, is a retrospective of his 30-year “photographic dialogue with the streets.” This Spring’s exhibition of his body of work at Fondazione Forma per la Fotografia in Milan brings together this same thirty years of photography and journalism, further celebrating Webb’s use of dense, vivid colors to tell stories about places and situations in some of the most unusual corners of the world.
The self-termed “street photographer” describes the practice of assembling three decades of his works in color as an exercise in exploring “the dominant obsession of [his] photographic life… a particular way of seeing in color.” A trip to Haiti in 1975 incited change in his way of seeing, since driving the photographer toward localities where “light and color are essential to understanding and describing the territory.” Color emerged as a language closer to his own sensibilities, since becoming an essential choice in his visual storytelling.
“Three years after my first trip to Haiti, I realized there was another emotional note that had to be reckoned with: the intense, vibrant color of these worlds. Searing light and intense color seemed somehow embedded in the cultures that I had begun working in, so utterly different from the gray-brown reticence of my New England background. Since then, I have worked predominantly in color.” – Alex Webb
Curated by Alessandra Mauro, The Suffering of Light: Photographs by Alex Webb is on view April 26 through June 17 at Fondazione Forma per la Fotografia in Milan, accompanied by a weekend workshop on May 5th and 6th, entitled “Milan: Finding Your Vision.”
In simultaneity, Fondazione Forma per la Fotografia will host Magnum Contact Sheets, an exhibition that presents forty of the most important, and most valuable, contact sheets by great artists of Magnum Photos, alongside their respective final images. The selected contact sheets, shown with notes by the artists themselves, construct a revealing narrative, retracing the artist’s creative process of shooting and choosing. In a The Telegraph UK review of the 2011 publication, it is noted that Henri Cartier-Bresson, cooperative founder of Magnum, speaks of the contact sheet as “a little like a psychoanalyst’s casebook.” Also on the subject of the contact sheet as an intimate document of the artist, Belgian photographer Martine Franck, Cartier-Bresson’s widow, confesses:
“I feel that by allowing myself to be violated [sic], and by publishing that which is most intimate, I am taking the very real risk of breaking the spell, of destroying a certain mystery.”
At a time when digital photography has dramatically changed the way photographers work, the exhibition recalls an entirely different way of approaching photography; contact sheets allowed photographers to look back through the lens of time across visual memories of an event, a time, and a particular state of being.
The Suffering of the Light: Photographs by Alex Webb and
Magnum Contact Sheets
April 26 through June 17
Milan: Finding Your Vision
A Weekend Workshop with Alex and Rebecca Norris Webb
Friday, May 4th, 6:30PM
Saturday, May 5th and Sunday, May 6th, 10AM – 6PM
Fondazione Forma per la Fotografia