Todd Webb in Africa: Outside the Frame, 2021

Contribution by: Aimee Bessire, Erin Hyde Nolan

Format: Hardcover
Pages: 256
Artwork: 50 illustrations
Size: 10.1 in x 12 in x 1.1 in
Publisher: Thames & Hudson


Todd Webb in Africa: Outside the Frame, 2021

A photographic journey by one of the twentieth century’s great photographers through eight African countries on the cusp of independence post WWII.

Todd Webb is largely known for his skillful photographic documentation of everyday life and architecture in cities, most notably New York and Paris, as well as his photographs of the American West. This new book showcases a different side of Webb’s work, taken from an assignment that brought him to eight African countries.

In 1958, Webb was invited by the United Nations to document Togoland (now Togo), Ghana, Kenya, the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (now Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Malawi), Somaliland (now Somalia), Sudan, Tanganyika and Zanzibar (now merged as Tanzania) over a five-month assignment. Equipped with three cameras and briefed to document industrial progress, he returned with approximately fifteen hundred color negatives, but less than twenty of them were published, in black and white, by the United Nations Department of Public Information. The archive was then lost for over fifty years and was only rediscovered by the Todd Webb Archive in 2017.

Todd Webb in Africa includes over 150 striking color photographs from Webb’s African United Nations assignment. This book, and an accompanying touring exhibition, provides expert insight into Webb’s images with contributions by both African and American scholars. Included essays engage the photographs in their historical and artistic moment, and provide crucial insight into the role of photography in visualizing national independence and ingrained imperialism.



Aimee Bessire

Aimeée Bessire is an affiliated scholar who teaches African art history and cultural studies at Bates College.

Erin Hyde Nolan

Erin Hyde Nolan is a visiting assistant professor at Maine College of Art, where she teaches the history of photography, and visual culture, and Islamic art. She was the manager of the Todd Webb Archive from 2010 to 2015.

Todd Webb

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 a...

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