On December 14, the BYU Museum of Art will open its latest photography exhibition, Alex Webb: The Suffering of Light: Thirty Years of Photographs.
This traveling exhibition organized by Aperture Foundation in New York, explores the thirty-year career of Magnum photographer Alex Webb and features 45 large pigment prints that exhibit the unique energy and emotional vibrancy of Haiti, the Caribbean, the U.S.-Mexico border, and other cultures on the margins of Western civilization.
In bringing the exhibition to the museum, Diana Turnbow, the museum curator of photography, felt that Webb’s international focus would be “very compelling for our campus audience.”
Recognized as a pioneer of American color photography, since the 1970s, Webb has consistently created photographs characterized by intense color and light. His work, with its richly layered and complex composition, touches on multiple genres, including street photography, photojournalism, and fine art, but as Webb claims, “To me it all is photography. You have to go out and explore the world with a camera.”
“I am struck by his ability to give himself to the moment of the photograph,” Turnbow said, “It’s the element of lyricism found in the color of the setting or the gesture of his subjects that deeply imprints upon the viewer and potentially creates a connection that can lead to further inquiry, empathy, and a measure of understanding of a particular place or people.”
The power of color to create bridges of understanding is a seminal aspect of Webb’s work. The title for the exhibition, and its accompanying book, comes from a quote by Goethe that “colors are the deeds and suffering of light.”
Webb explained, “This book is not about a place, or a specific subject, or even a theme. It is about a way of seeing in color. As I understand it, Goethe believed that colors emerged from the tension between lightness and darkness, a notion that has always intrigued me.”
Alex Webb will be speaking at BYU on March 27, in a lecture co-sponsored by the BYU Museum of Art and the Kennedy Center. The exhibition will also be the focus of the museum’s February First Friday celebration.