Untitled (44UN-7925-071), Togoland (Togo), 1958


Limited edition

Archival pigment print - Stamped and Titled by the Todd Webb Archive

Edition of 10
50.8 x 50.8 cm
Unframed
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Edition of 5
76.2 x 76.2 cm
Unframed
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Copyright. Courtesy of the Todd Webb Archive


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Untitled (44UN-7925-071), Togoland (Togo), 1958

Webb began his United Nations assignment in Togoland (Togo) in order to photograph the nation’s first open election. Capturing images of emerging democratic systems in Africa was crucial to the U.N. commission, as such photographs could be used to bolster evidence of political progress—defined as a peaceful and orderly transition from colonial authorities—across the continent.

Webb created memorable photographs of the activities surrounding election day, which included thousands of men and women in lines for the ballot box, many of them in an apparently celebratory mood. This portrait of a group of men clustered around a voter wearing a Santa mask suggests an almost carnival-like atmosphere—or, perhaps, comments upon the alien status of the American photographer who wandered among the voters.

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 During the Depression, Webb prospected for gold, worked as a forest ranger, and wrote short stories that have gone unpublished.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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