(1) and (2) Alex Webb, Mexico. (3) and (4) Rebecca Norris Webb, from My Dakota. “
Photography for me is about seeing, not solving technical problems.” Alex Webb.
How often is it that married couples both turn out to be amazing photographers? Alex Webb is great, he’s in Magnum, his first project was finished in 1975 and is still great. But Rebecca interests me because she’s a poet, and I’m very much interested in the relationship between text and picture. I try to tell stories, and when I can’t tell them in text, I tell them in pictures. Rebecca:
Thinking about it now, I probably have always seen in images. Initially that took the form of writing poetry. An image would get under my skin and I’d try to write about it.
After college, for some reason my poetry deserted me. Looking back, I realize that perhaps the kind of lyric poetry I was writing during college had become too restrictive, too limiting. It didn’t contain enough of the world, and my curiosity about it. To break through the writer’s block, I decided to travel for a year, buying a camera in order to take ‘visual notes’ for perhaps a future project. What happened instead is that I started to fall in love with photography. It was only after taking a year of photography classes, however, that I had an epiphany: I realized that the eye that took the photographs was the very same eye that saw the images in my poetry. The Nebraskan photographer and writer, Wright Morris, I think said it best: ‘I don’t give up the camera eye when I write, merely the camera.’
And about her project, My Dakota, which she started making, and then her brother died and all those feelings that seeped into the photographs:
I photograph very intuitively. Looking at some of these disorienting photographs now from My Dakota – where it’s sometimes difficult to distinguish the background from the foreground, for instance – I realize that kind of confusion and feeling lost was very much a part of my grief, especially when I was most grief-struck.
During that time, I not only felt confused while photographing in South Dakota, but I also felt confused when I returned to Brooklyn to edit the film and to try to make sense of what I’d been doing. I remember showing the work to my friend, Gene Richards, who at that time was travelling back and forth from Brooklyn to the Great Plains to work on his book, The Blue Room. When he asked me how things were coming along with My Dakota, I told him I wasn’t sure what I was doing. He said to me in his soft, gentle voice, ‘Becky, sometimes confusion is good.’
All quotes taken from an interview in an Australian photography magazine in 2012, which I stumbled upon in pdf form.
This is Alex and Rebecca Norris Webb’s website. Here’s an article called 10 things Alex Webb can teach you about street photography, which surprisingly is not just a clickbait listicle, but actually takes some time to consider what makes Alex’s photographs so strong, and how to make them.