Michael Webb
writes on modern architecture, design, and travel. He is the author of 26 books, most recently Modernist Paradise: Niemeyer House, Boyd Collection (Rizzoli) and Venice CA: Art +Architecture in a Maverick Community (Abrams). He travels widely in search of new and classic modern architecture and contributes to magazines around the world. Michael lives in the Neutra apartment that Charles and Ray Eames once called home.

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Michael Webb

Entries in photography (5)


Exhibitions: Architecture in Photographs

Louis-Émile Durandelle (French, 1839 - 1917); Exposition universelle de 1889 / État d'avancement, November 23, 1888; Albumen silver print; 43.2 x 34.6 cm (17 x 13 5/8 in.). The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.In Focus: Architecture, a small, but exquisite exhibition at the Getty Museum, samples a favorite subject of photographers, from the invention of the medium in 1839 to the present. Architecture in Photographs is the title of a book by Gordon Baldwin, comprising 75 images from the Getty’s fabulous collection, and assistant photography curator Amanda Maddox has selected a third of these for her exhibition. Book and show offer a fascinating commentary on the evolution of the medium and the speed of its growth. Within a decade of the first images by Daguerre in France and Henry Fox Talbot in England, photographers had fanned out across the world, recording monuments, people and natural wonders. The cameras were cumbersome, the processing laborious, but these pioneers were undeterred, and they created a priceless record of a now-vanished world. Monumental buildings were favorite subjects, because they were static, could be pictured in constantly shifting light, and offered a ready-made composition for the photographer to interpret.

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Exhibitions: Pristine Planet

Sebastião Salgado, The Eastern Part of the Brooks Range in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska. USA. 2009. © Amazonas Images Courtesy of Peter Fetterman Gallery.

By Michael Webb

The most important photographic exhibition of the year opens on June 29th at the Peter Fetterman Gallery in Bergamot Station, Santa Monica. Sebastião Salgado—Genesis is the distillation of an eight-year project: an odyssey by the Brazilian photographer to remote parts of the world that remain pristine. Its importance resides in the epic grandeur of the images, and the message that it is not too late to save the planet from despoilation. Salgado is a fearless explorer and a brilliant artist, as earlier series, “Workers” and “Migrations”, proved. Genesis is even more ambitious, and it may be the last this 70-year-old can undertake. That makes this tribute to the wonders of nature and the tribes that live in harmony with the natural world even more affecting.

Henri Cartier-Bresson introduced Salgado to Fetterman, who is now one of the photographer’s ardent supporters and principal dealers. He curated the selection of images on show in his spacious gallery, and will be selling the large black and white prints alongside the full collection that’s been published by Taschen Books in trade and collectors’ editions. In a world that complacently hastens its destruction by climate change and lacks the will to arrest catastrophe, these images symbolize the beauty we stand to lose. Melting icecaps and rising sea levels, endangered wildlife and tribal habitat invaded by greedy settlers, will steadily erode the earthly paradise Salgado recorded. Cherish it while it’s still here. 



BOOK REVIEW: Venice in Solitude

© Christopher Thomas, 2012On my first trip to Venice in 1963, I arrived at 3am, dropped my bags at the hotel and strolled though the deserted city, delighting in the watery reflections and the skyline etched black against the pale light of dawn. I’ve never repeated that nocturnal exploration, but looking at Christopher Thomas’s magical images I think I shall. The German photographer went to live in Venice and every night he would set off with his large format camera and tripod to capture a specific view or detail in long exposures. Relying on street lamps, the moon, or the faint glow of dusk  and dawn, he created monochromatic compositions of extraordinary beauty. Misty or pin-sharp, they show the piazza and the neighborhood campi, the canals and bridges, polished pavers and fanciful facades in all kinds of weather. There are no people. “It is an attempt to recover the serenity of Venice found in images from the nineteenth century and to release the city from mass tourism,” he writes.  

All that needs to be said about Venice has already been written, as Goethe noted two centuries ago. The poems of Albert Ostermaier that are interleaved with the photographs are trifling. However it’s good to read the afterword by Antonio Foscari, an architect and professor who restored La Malcontenta, his family’s Palladian villa. He praises the “genial intuition” of Thomas that he could capture on film only one aspect of a city that eludes comprehension, even by those few residents whose roots run deep.

Venice in Solitude
Photographs by Christopher Thomas
(Prestel, $49.95)


Channeling the Bauhaus  

Metalltanz, about 1928 - 1929, T. Lux Feininger, Gelatin silver print, © Estate of T. Lux Feininger, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Gorgeous images of distant galaxies play across our computer screens, generated from signals dispatched by unmanned space probes, and this miraculous imagery is relegated to use as electronic wallpaper. An exhibition at the Getty Museum of Lyonel Feininger’s photographs brings us back to earth, and makes the act of composing an image more immediate and moving. The New York-born artist was one of the first teachers at the Bauhaus, designing the cover of its prospectus, but he disdained photography as a mechanical medium. When he finally did pick up a folding pocket camera in 1928, he approached the subject as though it were an experimental art form, shooting the Bauhaus buildings and the city of Dessau at night. Complementing these tiny black and white images are holiday snaps of his family and exuberant shots by his son, T. Lux Feininger, which capture the high spirits of the Bauhaus students. The father’s precise compositions and the son’s spontaneity reflect the two faces of a school that shaped our concept of modernism, and still feels alive, eighty years after it was shut down. And, as a bonus, the exhibition includes images by Feininger’s colleagues, László Moholy-Nagy and Walter Peterhans, and a few from his subsequent exile.

Bauhaus, March 26, 1929, Lyonel Feininger, Gelatin silver print, © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, Harvard Art Museums/Busch-Reisinger Museum, Gift of T. Lux Feininger

Lyonel Feininger Photographs, 1928-1939, will be on view at the J. Paul Getty Museum through March 11, 2012




 Vintage photographs of Pierre Chareau’s legendary Maison de Verre in Paris will be on sale at Tripod Studios on March 24, 25, 26 and 28, 6-9pm. British architect Michael Carapetian shot these black and white images in 1966, and  Kenneth Frampton, who was there to survey the house, wrote “Carapetian’s beautiful photos capture the Parisian culture of the Maison de Verre when the original clients were still alive. These photos register the cultural density of the house when it was still in their ownership.”

Tripod Studios were established by Peter Carapetian, who is a notable photographer in his own right, as a place for photographers to gather and show their work. His brother Michael lives in the other Venice, where I first saw these photos last year, and was entranced by the patina that Frampton remarked on.



To attend the sale, contact,
or call 310 920 4612.

Tripod Studios
608 Main Street
Venice, CA 90291