Biography

Todd on the Ohio River, 1955

 

In 1905, Charles Clayton ("Todd") Webb III was born in Detroit, Michigan. Having been a successful stockbroker in the 1920’s, he lost all of his earnings, and then some, in The Crash. During the Depression, Webb prospected for gold, worked as a forest ranger, and wrote short stories that have gone unpublished. It was during this exploratory period in the 1930s that he first picked up a camera. His interest and love for photography soon crowded out his writing ambitions, and he was able to do the two things he loved the most: travel, meet people, and photograph them.

In 1938 Webb joined the Chrysler Camera Club in Detroit, where he met aspiring photographer Harry Callahan. Through a workshop from Ansel Adams, Webb's interest in the sharp focus technique of "straight photography" was confirmed. After serving in World War II, Todd Webb moved to New York where he nurtured a friendship with Alfred Stieglitz and his wife Georgia O’Keeffe who introduced him to Beaumont Newhall, and later Newhall curated the first major exhibition of Webb's photographs for The Museum of The City of New York. Also during this time, Todd worked for Roy Stryker and the Standard Oil Company.

In 1949 Todd Webb returned to Paris, and met his wife Lucille, remaining in France for the next four years. In both 1955 and 1956, Todd Webb was awarded two successive John Simon Guggenheim fellowships to photograph the pioneer trails that early America settlers followed to Oregon and California. While his contemporary, Robert Frank drove across the country during these years, Todd walked and photographed as he moved from East to West.

Up until the 1980's, Todd Webb photographed and produced a unique body of work, which has attained an important place in the annals of American photographic history. Frequently referred to as "an historian with a camera," Webb's rich images document life all over the world. His work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, and is included in numerous museum collections including the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Minneapolis Art Institute, and the Chicago Art Institute.

Todd Webb died in May, 2000 at the age of 94 in Central Maine.  His life was like his photographs; at first they seem very simple, without obvious tricks or manipulation, but upon closer examination, they are increasingly complex and marvellously subtle.

 

 

SELECTED MUSEUM COLLECTIONS

Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, Massachusetts

The American Embassy, Paris, France

Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas

Biblioteque Nationale, Paris, France

Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine

Boston Athenaeum, Boston, Massachusetts

Carnegie Museum, University of Maine at Orono, Orono, Maine

Center for Creative Photography, Tuscon, Arizona

Chicago Art Institute, Chicago, Illinois

Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio

Colby College Art Museum, Waterville, Maine

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas

The David Winton Bell Gallery at Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island

Denver Art Museum, Denver, Colorado

George Eastman House, Rochester, New York

Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, New Mexico

The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, California

Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington

Institute of Art, Detroit, Michigan

The International Center of Photography

Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, California

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas

Museum of Fine Arts, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, Japan

Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), New York, New York

Museum of the City of New York, New York

The National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC

The National Museum, Tokyo, Japan

The National Museum of Mexican Art, Chicago, Illinois

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri

New Mexico Museum of Fine Arts, Santa Fe, New Mexico

New York Public Library, New York

Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois

The Painting Gallery, Munich, Germany

Pomona College Museum of Art, Claremont, California

Portland Museum of Art, Portland, Maine

Rice University, Houston, Texas

Rochester Institute of Art, Rochester, New York

Royal Photography Society, London, England

San Antonio Museum of Art, San Antonio, Texas

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, California

Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, California

Smith College Art Museum, Northampton, Massachusetts

The Smithsonian, Washington, DC

Worcester Museum of Art, Worcester, Massachusetts

 
 
 
PUBLICATIONS


Gold Strikes and Ghost Towns, Doubleday Press, 1961

The Gold Rush Trails and the Road to Oregon, Doubleday Press, 1963

Nineteenth Century Texas Homes, University of Texas Press, 1966

Georgia O’Keeffe, The Artist’s Landscape, Twelvetrees Press, 1984

Looking Back:  Memoirs and Photographs of Todd Webb, University of New Mexico Press, 1991

Todd Webb:  Photographs of New York and Paris, Hallmark Cards, Inc., 1986

Todd Webb: New York, Paris, O’Keeffe, Friends, Mega Press, Japan, 1998

Todd Webb: A Photographer’s Welcome Home, University of Maine Press, 2008

After Atget: Todd Webb Photographs New York and Paris, Bowdoin College Museum of Art, 2011

 

 

 

DOCUMENTARIES

“Honest Vision: A Portrait of Todd Webb.” Written, Produced, and Directed by James “Huey” Coleman in 1996. Winner of the Silver Plaque, Chicago International Film Festival.

 

___________________________

Obituary, New York Times, April 2000

Obituary in the Guardian, April 2000

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