Magnum Photos presents Alex Webb: The Suffering of Light, the latest exhibition at its new Paris Gallery on rue Léon Frot in the 11th arrondissement.
The show revisits the American photographer’s pioneering work in color over the past four decades, including images from his seminal monograph, The Suffering of Light.
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.
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: “Searing light and intense color seemed somewhat embedded in the cultures that I had begun working in, so utterly different than the gray-brown reticence of my New England background. Since then, I have worked predominantly in color”.
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.
Paris gallery director Samantha McCoy says, “I am ecstatic to be bringing this seminal body of work to Paris, the city of lights and birthplace of photography, for the first time. Webb’s photography has seeped into photography’s consciousness, and it is high time it is properly celebrated”.