Webb began his career as a photographer in the 1970s, making pictures of the American social landscape in the streets of New England and New York, working exclusively in black and white. In the preface to The Suffering of Light, he describes having “reached a kind of dead end” in photography, as well as an eagerness to explore new territories. That year, in 1975, inspired by Graham Greene’s novel, The Comedians, he jumped on a plane to Port-au-Prince to discover the turbulent world of Haiti through the eyes of his lens.
The first three-week trip transformed Webb, introducing him to new worlds of emotional vibrancy and intensity that he described as “raw, disjointed, often tragic”. After traveling for a further three years, he made a commitment to fully embrace color photography in order to translate the vibrant color of these worlds.
The Suffering of Light was originally published by Aperture in 2011, and was Webb’s first comprehensive survey book, presenting 120 of his most iconic images from his travels in Southern America, Africa, India, Europe, and beyond. Today, The Suffering of Light remains a landmark photobook, and Webb is internationally recognized for his work, characterized by intense color and light, capturing everyday scenes that often reveal wider tensions or convey a sense of enigma, irony, or even humor.