Aperture Review: Alex Webb |Ciudad Madero, Tamaulipas, 1983


From the moment you enter Aperture Foundation in Chelsea the walls are filled with contrasting bright colors and no map is required. The design of the interior is welcoming and provides a clear division of what’s what . Exiting the 4th Floor elevator, you turn to your right and your faced with a giant wall that divides the gallery in two. On your left hand side is the welcoming reception desk and further down the separation  are all the fantastically designed photobooks and magazines printed by Aperture available for purchase. On the left hand side of the wall was the intricate Alex Webb, La Calle Photographs from Mexico Exhibition. This Exhibition is cleverly divided among approximately 4 colored walls. There are 3-4 images framed on each wall, I believe it was designed to use the contrasting color of the images on the wall to better project the image. For example, on my shot below you can see the main color is blue in the photograph and the contrasting color yellow for the wall.

What I found very interesting about the  subject of the exhibition was that Alex Webb was a British photographer and he some how felt connected creatively on the other side of the world in Mexico. In addition, the fact that the photographs are based on a prolonged period of time like 40 years really says something about how he felt in Mexico returning year after year Beginning in the 70’s to capture his subject. In the images shot by Alex Webb I see images of people experiencing the same emotions that anyone can experience, because there not based on economical status. Alex Webb uses the unfamiliar environment to contrast the familiar emotions portrayed by the people photographed to demonstrate two things;

1. The conditions of the people in Mexico


2. The fact that everyone everywhere no matter what social class or environment experience the same emotions. He illustrates this by showing people from the happiest to the most devastated state of emotion. Alex Webb’s Mexico is a Mexico everyone can relate to.

The photograph that stuck out to me from La Calle exhibition is Ciudad Madero, Tamaulipas, 1983. The reason this image got my attention was because of the precise moment Webb hit the shutter button. The moment is so précised that any second more or less the image would of never been the same. The young girl is looking directly in the camera immediately after flipping over the diving board with a smile and the fact that he got that in one shot is incredible especially for the kind of technology available to photographer in 1983. The low exposure helps set the blue tone of the image, helping the sky and water blend into one. The image is divided into thirds, Medium shot with a strong horizontal line coming from the pool and diving board. Webb portrays deep space as it goes all the way back to the power plant, showing far beyond the swimming pool. He also uses the positive and negative space wisely having an even distribution of both. The top half of the image is blank sky and the bottom is busy, which emphasizes his subject in the middle the smiling girl. This image confirmed my theory of Alex Webb’s juxtaposition in order to have the viewer empathize with the people but also become aware of the environment. Because, although the young girl is unaware of where her happiness lives the viewer can see it lies a couple of block away from a dangerous power plant.




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1 Response to Aperture Review: Alex Webb |Ciudad Madero, Tamaulipas, 1983

  1. rmichals says:

    I agree that Webb while showing some of the physical environment of Mexico is really interested in people’s emotional lives. The photo you selected is a little different in that it is a comment on the dangers of industrial pollution. The girl jumping off the diving board is facing away from the smoke and looks happy but the composition does not let us the viewers forget about the dangers of the plant in the background. As you say, Webb captured the perfect moment where she is bisecting an implied line between the smoke and the diving board.

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