I finally got my hands on a copy of Istanbul: City of a Hundred Names
, with photographs by Alex Webb and an essay by Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk. Aperture published this large format hardcover book of 135 pages in 2007. As he relates in the preface, Webb had previously been photographing along the U.S.-Mexico border:
In those intervening years, I had been drawn to borders and the edges of societies, where different cultures come together, sometimes clashing, sometimes fusing. Istanbul is another kind of border. Straddling the Bosphorus, it is a place where East literally meets West, the only major city that exists on two continents. It is both Asian and European, Islamic and secular, ancient and modern.
A full member of Magnum since 1979, Webb has published several impressive books (Crossings
, The Suffering of Light
, among others and with his wife - Rebecca Norris Webb - On Street Photography and the Poetic Image
and Memory City
). He was the 2000 recipient of the Leica Medal of Excellence.
Webb's photography is characterized by a sensitive and subtle response to color (and, in monochrome, a similarly sensitive treatment of value). Some of his photographs display a layering of subjects and actions in foreground, middle-ground and background, which results in eye-teasing juxtapositions. In contrast to the spatial separation of subjects in Garry Winogrand's later work, which also layers fore-, mid-, and backgrounds, Webb's subjects are drawn together in the layering. His compositions read as choreography, with a sense of timing and space as fine as ever I've seen. Other examples of his work contained in this book are street photographs distinguished by the artist's response to large abstract shapes and prevailing color tonalities. Webb's work is poetic in the sense of effectively communicating meanings and emotional sense on multiple levels through rigorous use of primary tools available to to the photographer: depth of field, selective focus, composition, timing, hue, value, color saturation, contrast.