About photobooks – old and new.
Title: Brooklyn – The City Within
Authors: Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb
Published in 2019 by Aperture, first edition.
Hardcover, 4to, photographically illustrated dust jacket.
“Brooklyn – The City Within” combines the photos of Alex Webb (1952), known for his saturated color work and social landscapes, and Rebecca Norris Webb (1956), originally a poet, who explores the relationship between people and their natural environment. In 2014 Alex Webb and Rebecca N. Webb started this collaborative photo project focused on Brooklyn, where the photographers live. The collaborative project is part of an exhibition which recently opened at the Museum of the City of New York (but is now closed because of the coronavirus outbreak).
The photobook includes two chapters of street photography from Alex Webb, covering different boroughs of Brooklyn. Through Alex Webb’s photos, Brooklyn transpires as a dynamic and ethnically diverse place. It’s estimated that one in every eight US families had relatives come through Brooklyn when settling in the country. These two chapters parallel his work made in the past forty years, traveling to photograph different cultures around the world—all of which are represented in the place he now calls home.
In Alex Webb’s view, Brooklyn uniqueness is about “the energy and complexity of a multicultural borough, a place where a variety of people manage to live side by side despite their many differences. In today’s increasingly tribalized and polarized world, that’s a welcome relief.”
Rebecca Norris Webb photos are in one single chapter mainly about life in the parks – the Botanic Garden, GreenWood Cemetery, and Prospect Park, where Brooklynites of all walks of life cross paths as they find solace. Her photos contrast with Alex’s approach, by focusing more on a microcosm, “the city within the city within the city,” the green heart of Brooklyn. Her photos present at times a serene and meditative environment, but at other times the human presence in the parks is joyful and lively.
Rebecca N. Webb considers that “in the case of Brooklyn, it’s like a piece of music in three movements, distinguished by their differences in rhythm. Beginning and ending the book, Alex’s vibrant street photographs—with their often-crowded frames—have a sometimes staccato, sometimes contrapuntal, more allegro tempo. My images in the middle of the book strike a quieter, more meditative note, echoing the rhythm of walking through these green spaces—a slower, more andante tempo.”
Together, the two styles of photography create a profound and vibrant portrait of Brooklyn and tell a larger American story, one that touches on immigration, identity, and home.