Biography

Todd Webb (1905 – 2000) is known for documenting the residents and buildings of New York and Paris during the middle of the 20th century. In 1938 Webb joined the Chrysler Camera Club in Detroit, where he met aspiring photographer Harry Callahan. After taking a workshop given by Ansel Adams, Webb’s interested in “straight photography” was confirmed.

 

In 1945, as a newly discharged Navy veteran, Webb moved to New York with the specific intention of photographing the city. Befriending numerous established photographers, including Alfred Stieglitz, Webb spent several decades capturing the city’s contrasts, armed with a large format camera and tripod. From the skyscrapers in Midtown, to the Lower East Side’s tenements, and high-powered businessmen to street vendors, Webb created an insightful collective portrait of the city during the post-war period.

 

In 1949 Webb moved to Paris, where he met his wife Lucille, remaining in France for the next four years. Here, the influence of renowned French photographer Eugene Atget came to the fore, as Webb embarked on an assignment of documenting the impact of the Marshall Plan in Paris. Like Atget, Webb had an ability to bring romanticism and mystery to commonplace scenes. However, while Atget prioritized the preservation of the past with his photographs, Webb set out to be an observer of his own time. 

Charles Clayton (“Todd”) Webb III was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1905, and he died in 2000 at the age of 94 in Central Maine. In 1955 and 1956 Webb was awarded two successive John Simon Guggenheim fellowships to photograph the pioneer trails that early America settlers followed to Oregon and California. His work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, and is included in numerous museum collections including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; the International Center of Photography, New York; and the National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C, among others.

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