Todd Webb

Todd Web (1905-2000) was one of those photographers i’ve known about for a long time, and have admired pictures by, but never got to really find out more about him and his work. I was reminded about him a few days ago in a feature about his New York photographs on the Lens blog.

There are plenty of places you can read about his life story, and he certainly lived through interesting times and was certainly one of the better photographers inspired by the work of people like Edward Weston and those others who turned away from pictorialism to a sharp and detailed modernistic approach in the 1920s and 30s. He very much moved in the circles of those better known than he was, from being in the same Detroit camera club as Harry Callaghan when he first became seriously involved in photography in 1938, and completed a ten-day workshop with Ansel Adams in 1940 before serving as a US Navy photographer in World War II.

After war service he moved to New York at the start of 1946 to be a professional photographer, sharing an address with Callaghan. He became friends with the aging Alfred Stieglitz and his partner Georgia O’Keefe, who introduced him to other leading names in photography at the time, including Beaumont and Nancy Newhall. Webb got a part-time job at the Museum of the City of New York, documenting their collection one day a week, and Beaumont, then head of the photography department at MoMA, persuaded the MCNY to put on a show of Webb’s personal work in 1947.

Now, 70 years later, Webb has another show there, A City Seen from April 20 – September 4, 2017, as well as one at the Curator Gallery in NY’s Chelsea. The MCNY show is said to be the first major gallery show of his work since his 1947 show there.

Just as he was becoming well known as a photographer in New York, working for Fortune magazine where Walker Evans was Staff Photographer (Webb said he tried hard to make  his work not too much like that of Evans), and for Roy Stryker at Standard Oil, Webb left for Paris, where he got married to an American woman and lived for the next four years, producing some of his best photographs. Moving back to New York, he got Guggenheim fellowships in both 1955 and 1956 to photograph along the trails taken by the US pioneers traveling west. In the 1960s he moved to Santa Fe, and made a number of pictures of Georgia O’Keefe, published as Georgia O’Keeffe: The Artist’s Landscape.

In the 1970s he lived with his wife for some years in Provence, and for a briefer period in Bath, England, finally moving to Maine, where he lived and worked until his death in 2000. Webb was driven by his love of photography and apparently spent his time pursuing images rather than promoting his career, and his work – as you can see from the links below, deserves to be better known.

Todd Webb – ICP has a good selection of his work on-line.
Todd Webb Archive – work from New York, Paris and O’Keefe.
Gothamist has an informative interview with the curator of his NY show at the Curator Gallery April 20-May 20 2017.
Fortune Magazine  has a good feature about his two current shows in NY.

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