Now on View: A Surreal, Nuanced Portrait of Mexico, From 1974 On
It was 1974 when photographer Alex Webb first encountered the U.S.-Mexican border. Then 23-years-old, Webb was entranced by the border's sparse network of makeshift towns, somehow split both physically and psychologically between the two countries.
Six years passed before Webb was compelled to travel more deeply into the country, spurred on by D.H. Lawrence's descriptions of the airy southern city of Oaxaca. Over the course of three decades, Webb traversed the country countless times, amassing a deep well of photographs. For the first time, these photographs—spanning from 1975 until 2007—will be assembled in an exhibition at Aperture Gallery in New York entitled La Calle.
Although often short in duration, Webb describes his trips to Mexico as transformative. "I was still discovering...how to use [photography] to explore the light, the heat, and the life of the street in this large and complicated country."
Unlike his reticent New England home, Mexico demanded a much more expansive palette and eventually, Webb would completely forego black-and-white film. Instead, the young photographer began to experiment with Kodachrome, resulting in a series of light-filled vignettes.
But Webb's practice wasn't the only thing changing.
"Even though the Mexico I had photographed over three decades sometimes had a violent edge, the level of brutality...in the current drug wars seem far removed from the world I first encountered in Oaxaca in 1981," Webb said. "What to make of the gulf between my Mexico work and the country's volatile present?"
And although Webb offers no easy answers, the work remains an intimate portrait of both subject and photographer.