Alex Webb’s Chicago

Thanks to Jim Casper’s Lensculture blog for showing me Alex Webb‘s Chicago Street Photography slideshow, made in collaboration with Leica and Magnum. The pictures sometimes disappear a little too fast for my slow-working brain, and although there is nothing wrong with the sounds recorded by Webb and his commentary it perhaps more makes for an easy experience than adding a great deal to the pictures. As to be expected from Webb, there are some interesting images, though in the nature of a presentation like this there are those which are less so, but overall I found it largely held my attention.

The video (which incidentally I couldn’t see using Firefox, but played without problems on Internet¬† Explorer) is also on the Leica Camera blog, where it appears with a short interview with Webb about the work, along with a half a dozen comments.

One person asks for information about the audio recording and gets a rather poor answer from the Leica Internet team “Some of the information regarding the audio in the piece can be found at the end credits.” If you blink you miss these and certainly it is hardly possible to read past the first few lines crediting Alex Webb, though with a little fiddling around you can stop the video at that point (4m35s) and find that as well as Alex’s own recordings it also credits Freesound.org and ChicagoStreetMusicians.org. There is a kind of odd 14 seconds of blank screen with a couple of bursts of sound after the credits disappear, suggesting some kind of production error, so perhaps the credits were intended to be more readily legible.

In some respects I think that digital works better with Webb’s liking for deep shadows than transparency ever did, and although one of the comments calls for the contrast of these images to be ‘beefed up’, I can’t agree. But when I saw his first book in 1986 I thought it relied too much on the drama of large areas of darkness – to me at the time it seems too easy a way to create drama, and I probably still feel that way.

Nor do I agree with ‘Fred’ who says “Most of these are pretty dull shots.”¬† But it’s worth spending the 5 minutes to watch this and make up your own mind. You may even want to see it a second time, as I did, with the sound turned off.

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