Part 1 transcription of the Q&A session during the public talk given by photographers Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb and David Chickey of Radius Books, at The National Museum Of Singapore on 9th March, 2012.
Emcee: So shall we open up to questions from the floor?
Alex: Don’t be scared. We don’t bite. (Audience laughs)
Question: First of all, thank you for giving me the opportunity. I think the photos, we can always see very complicated scene. Different local people inside, always different expressions, different posture of their bodies. All these things are organized organically. So I want to know how you can control all these things, many different items come together. Thank you.
Alex: You’re asking how, how do I do this? (Yes)
Prayer. (Audience laughs) Look, look, I mean, look. I mean, this kind of work, loosely speaking, street photography, I mean it’s not a great term but it’s 99.9% about failure. You know, I mean, most of the pictures don’t work. It’s every once in a while the God of photography gives you a little something (Audience laughs)
You know, it’s a little bit like gambling. You know, as a photographer, you go out. You go out and you think of situations where it would be interesting and the lights are interesting and you sort of, you know, sniff around and have things that intrigue you. Find all the odds in your favor but most of the time, it doesn’t work. You know, I wait. I wander, I sometimes return to places that intrigue me.
But ultimately, I am a firm believer in a certain level of mystery in the photography process. That it is about something, about somehow being in the rhythm of the streets, somehow. And somehow, having a sense of faith. A sense of faith that somehow, something interesting, somehow somewhere will happen. But a lot of times that mean, you know, you walk and you walk and you walk all day. I mean part of the process, for me, is well, if it’s not working, I just walk more.
And you know, sometimes it’s at the very end of the day, you know, six o’clock when I feel like , “Oh, I’ll just go and get something to eat, rest when all of a sudden, something happens.” And there’s a picture.
But the walking process, the walking process and the sort of what walking is. The speed of walking, the rhythm of walking, how one moves through the world walking versus driving a car or something like that, is for me, important, in terms of the process of photography.
Years ago whenever I used to run into Czech photographer, Josef Koudelka, Josef in a very direct Czech manner would reach down and he grabbed my shoe and look at the bottom of that and see if I’ve been walking enough. (Audience laughs) It’s his way of seeing if I am serious about photography.
But some of the complexities, you know, have to do with my sense of how I perceive the world and my belief in the tremendous complexity and un-nobleness, at some level, of the world.
David: We were talking earlier today about different photographers work and how they perceive the body of work they make. I find it particularly illuminating about how Alex say that he has two, three good pictures in a year. And that is a good year. (Audience laughs)
Alex: Well, you know, this Suffering of Light has a hundred pictures over thirty years so it’s (inaudible as Audience bursts out laughing). Maybe it’s badly edited. Maybe thirty pictures have to come out.
Text: Sebastian Song
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Q&A with Alex Webb, Rebecca Norris Webb & David Chickey