USM Art Galleries Gorham and Portland

1987 — Todd Webb Collection, Todd Webb



Todd Webb Collection
Todd Webb
University of Southern Maine
Law Building, 7th Floor

Todd Webb (1987)

In 1905, Charles Clayton ("Todd") Webb III was born in Detroit , Michigan. Webb came to his ultimate profession late in life in 1939. He had been a successful stockbroker in the Twenties, and then lost his earnings in The Crash that preceded the Great Depression. During the Depression, Webb prospected for gold, worked as a forest ranger, and wrote short stories that no one would publish. Finally Webb went to work for Chrysler Corporation in their Export Division to further his interest in international affairs. In 1938 Webb joined the Chrysler Camera Club where he met aspiring photographer Harry Callahan. Webb and Callahan embarked on their photographic career together, which began with a workshop from Ansel Adams. The workshop with Adams reaffirmed Webb's interest in the sharp focus technique of "straight photography" and led him to reject the popular manipulated methods of the Pictorialists.

After photographing for the Navy in WWII in the South Pacific, Webb moved to New York in the early 1940's. Webb soon developed his own unique style of photographing and was further encouraged by Alfred Stieglitz to focus in the medium of photography. Stieglitz introduced Webb to Georgia O'Keeffe, Berenice Abbott, Lisette Model, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Walker Evans and Edward Steichen, all of whom became important figures in Webb's life. Up until the 1980's, Todd Webb photographed and produced a unique body of work, which attained an important place in American photographic history. On April 15, 2000 at the age of 94, Todd Webb passed away peacefully in central Maine.

Frequently referred to as "an historian with a camera," Webb's wonderfully rich images document life all over the world, including New York, France and the American West. His work has been internationally exhibited, with important shows in New York, Santa Fe, Tokyo and London. Todd Webb's work is in the collections of fifteen major museums, including the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), NY; the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Chicago Art Institute; and the George Eastman House, Rochester, NY . The photographs displayed here, spanning 40 years of work, were given to USM as part of Webb's residency in 1987. While here, he printed several posters featuring elements from his photographs.