Juror Spotlight: Alex Webb & Rebecca Norris Webb
Bound to one another by photographs and a romance spanning decades, few pairs intertwine as well as Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb. They’ve travelled across the world to organize and lead informative workshops; they’ve been featured side by side in esteemed publications such as National Geographic and the New York Times. Together, they have reached a level of success that most photographers spend entire lifetimes striving for. However, despite their togetherness, the pair fails to be redundant – each individual has developed their own unique style, their own way of approaching and interacting with their subjects and environments.
Alex Webb’s eye can best be described as wandering. Through his lens, the world is primarily transient, full of motion. Feeling a sense of home on the streets of cities, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he’s drawn to the fast-paced world of photojournalism. His thirst for storytelling as a young man eventually guided him through the Caribbean and Mexico, across the United States and Europe. For the past four decades, Alex Webb’s strategy has been simple enough. Rather than chasing action, he waits patiently for it the play out in front of him. The passing glances and and subtle touches people share are what captivates the artist most. His subject matter can’t be forced – instead, he keeps his eyes peeled for the small sparks of dynamism buried in everyday life.
The same cannot be said about the images of Rebecca Norris Webb. Generally void of people, her photographs have a sense of stillness and sensitivity. With a background as a writer, the camera began to take the place of a pen when she met collaborator turned spouse. Contemplative, she creates visual poetry, using photography as a means to make sense of life’s intangibles. This is especially evident in works such as My Dakota, more so an elegy to her deceased brother than a concrete, straightforward narrative. For her, imagery makes the murky waters of complicated relationships a bit clearer. When faced with questions that lack real answers, photography becomes a means of responding.
On their own, both husband and wife have plenty of accolades to backup the validity of their art. Alex Webb is a seasoned Magnum photographer whose work has hung on the walls of prestigious institutions including the Whitney and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Rebecca Norris Webb’s images are housed in the influential collections of the George Eastman House, the Griffin Museum of Photography, and the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. But, personal achievements aside, their incredible partnership is what sets the Webbs apart from the rest of the photographic community. Integrally tied into the other’s work – collaborative or otherwise – the pair have successfully published 18 photographic volumes between the two of them.
Ultimately, their contrasting styles compliment rather than repel one another. The two often refer to their collaborations as duets, a rather unconventional yet fitting term. Just as two separate instruments playing might form a full-fledged song when combined, their images play off of one another to create something deeper. Speaking to one another through “visual conversations” (as described in their joint project Slant Rhymes), they draw inspiration from each others creative energy. Their intimate connection and combined experience allows the couple to identify the overlaps in their visions, and accordingly they sequence together dialogues in a language all their own.