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Todd Webb in Africa: Outside the Frame


Aimee Bessire & Erin Hyde Nolan


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 skilful 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 colour 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 colour 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. Accompanying essays place the photographs in their historical and artistic moment, and provide crucial insight into the role of photography in visualizing national independence and ingrained imperialism.

Todd Webb (1905-2000) was an American photographer active from the late 1930s to the 1980s whose work has attained an important place in the annals of American photographic history. Previous books on Todd Webb include I See A City, also published by Thames & Hudson. Aimee Bessire is Professor of African art history and cultural studies at Bates College in Maine. She has co-curated exhibitions including 'The Art of Identity: African Sculpture from the Teel Collection' (Fogg Museum, Harvard 1996) and 'Convulsive Beauty: The Impact of Surrealism on American Art' (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York 1988). Erin Hyde Nolan is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Maine College of Art, where she teaches the history of photography and visual culture. She was the manager of the Todd Webb Archive from 2010 to 2015.

Category:  Art & Craft
ISBN:  9780500545393
Publisher:  Thames & Hudson
On sale:  March 2021
List price:  R1180 
Format:  Hardback
eBook ISBN 
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