Contextual Research | Alex Webb

Building on my awareness of practitioners I am currently drawn to the work of Alex Webb. On my journey to understanding the ‘poetic image’ I have opened up to a new understanding or appreciation of work which really stands out and take personal enjoyment from. In studying the previous unit I begun to engage with a range of practitioners such as Todd Hido, William Eggleston and Stephen Shore, all of which I will research in further depth in order to inform my project.

Within this post I have selected some photographs of Alex Webb which I feel will inform my community football project.

Figure 1:: Alex Webb

Figure 1 is an image that I would like to echo within my own project. Obviously, the presence of a football provides anchorage to my future intentions however the complexity of the image encompassing seven people while encompassing a clear theme of the colour blue in addition to a secondary theme of stripes and squares is quite magnificent. One could be suspicious as to whether this is a constructed image however that is unimportant in a personal sense because the vision of Webb to even plan such an image is so powerful. Snyder and Allen (1975: p65) cite Szarkowski who argues “the artist begins with the subject then does something to it – deforms it somehow, according to some personal sense of style” Szarkowski’s ideas are particular relevant to the work of Webb in the sense that the arrangements he composes in much of his work suggest a distinctive and complexed style. The fusing of the colour pallet to provide semiotic union with the composition and allow photographs such as figure 1 to come to life.

Culler who cites Riffaterre (1981,p 89) argues that ‘Reading a poem is a quest for unity, and unity is achieved or perceived only when the reader abandons the apparent referential or representational meaning of the discourse and grasps the unifying feature of factor that the various signs of the poem express by indirection’.

In considering figure 1, Webb’s photograph is a powerful example of unifying features such as colour, gesture and composition in order to produce a discourse which suggests a universal theme of children playing in the street. In addition to the lady in the background which suggests a parental element, ‘checking on the children, whilst the children in the bottom left of the frame appear to be engaged in a discussion of type. Webb himself (2014: p41) states in relation to his approach ‘pushing the frame to include more and more, just up to but falling short of chaos’. The assertion of Webb in the case of figure 1 certainly holds relevance as the image isn’t chaotic however I would argue that it is a very busy image while providing the viewer with a sense of space and time.

Culler, J (1982) Culler, The Persuit of Signs, Routledge, London.

Snyder, J. Allen, N.W. (1975) ‘Photography, Vision and Representation’ in Critical Inquiry, Vol.7, No.1. (Autumn, 1975)

Webb, A and Webb, R (2014) On Street Photography and the Poetic Image. Aperture, New York.

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