Untitled (44UN-7981-177), Northern Rhodesia (Zambia), 1958


Limited edition

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

50.8 x 50.8 cm
Edition of 10
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-7981-177), Northern Rhodesia (Zambia), 1958

At the copper mines near Ndola, Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia), molten slag—material waste made through a smelting process to extract copper from ore—cascades in a vermillion ribbon down an ash-covered hill, so hot and viscous it seems barely to touch the ground.

Here, Webb turns his camera upward, exalting industrial progress. His handling of this subject suggests an attraction to its aesthetic potential; nevertheless, in creating a beautiful image, he obscures the colonial exploitation and environmental impact of this extractive enterprise.

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 During the Depression, Webb prospected for gold, worked as a forest ranger, and wrote short stories that have gone unpublished.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