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Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb

A Duet of Photographs from Cuba

October 18, 2013 February 2, 2014
Exhibition Opening Reception, Artist's Talk and Book Signing: Friday, October 18, 6:00-8:00pm

Sancti Spiritus,1993, Alex Webb

“In Spanish the word “esperando” means both “waiting” and “hoping,” a layered meaning that starts to get at the feel of the Cuba I’ve photographed since 1993. But what are the Cuban people waiting and hoping for? What lies ahead for this complicated and vibrant island?" –Alex Webb


"Violet Isle" is the little-known name for Cuba inspired by the rich color of the soil there. A unique and enigmatic double portrait by photographers Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb; Violet Isle, combines two separate photographic visions: Alex Webb's dramatic and graphic exploration of street life in Cuba; and Rebecca Norris Webb's fascination with the unique, quixotic collections of animals she discovered there in tiny zoos, pigeon societies, hand-painted natural history displays and quirky personal menageries. As Florida’s nearest international neighbor, and as an area of long-standing museum interest and focus, Violet Isle offers the next intriguing chapter in the Southeast Museum of Photography’s sustained exhibition record of Cuba.

“Violet Isle is unlike anything I've seen before, transcending all the clichés of Cuba. Rebecca is a painter with her camera, Alex a cinematographer; together they've created a unique view into a complex and often misunderstood culture.” --Carol McCusker, Curator of Photography, Harn Museum, University of Florida.

"This is an island whose people and animals seem caught out of time; a place that’s engaging yet unsettling, a place that’s vibrant yet vulnerable, a place that – for better or worse – probably won’t exist as it is much longer." – Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb

Havana, 2007, Rebecca Norris Webb


As we photographed more extensively in Cuba we began to realize that despite the differences in our visions and our choices of subject, our work sprang from a response to a similar notion: the feel of a nation in a kind of bubble, an economic, political, cultural, and ecological bubble. Cuba still exists outside of the world of globalization, outside of the vast currents dramatically transforming the face of our world. For, how many 21st Century countries have almost no commercial advertising? How many remain comparatively free of plastics and other pollutants? How many countries have, for better or worse, resisted so adamantly the incursion of U.S.-inspired culture?

The resulting project and exhibition is a blend of two different aesthetics. So, in the spirit of a duet -- with its point-counterpoint -- we decided to weave our images together to create a multi-layered portrait of this “Violet Isle.” This is an island whose people and animals seem caught out of time; a place that’s engaging yet unsettling, a place that’s vibrant yet vulnerable, a place that – for better or worse – probably won’t exist as it is much longer.
– Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb


Originally a poet, Rebecca Norris Webb has published three photography books that explore the complicated relationship between people and the natural world — The Glass Between Us (2006), Violet Isle: A Duet of Photographs from Cuba (with Alex Webb) (2009), and My Dakota (2012). My Dakota interweaves her text and photographs from her home state of South Dakota and was selected as one of best photography books of 2012 by PDN, Photo-Eye, and Time.

Norris Webb’s photographs have been exhibited internationally, including at the George Eastman House Museum; Ricco Maresca Gallery, New York; the Dahl Arts Center, South Dakota; the North Dakota Museum of Art, the Robert Klein Gallery, Boston and at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Her work has appeared in Time, The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, National Geographic, and Le Monde Magazine. Another joint book project; Alex Webb & Rebecca Norris Webb: On Street Photography and the Poetic Image (with Alex Webb) is currently in production for 2014 release by Aperture.


Alex Webb is one of the world’s foremost photojournalists. His keen intelligence and long-term commitment to difficult subjects has yielded important projects on Florida, Turkey, Cuba, Haiti, and the Amazon Basin. Best known for his vibrant color work, especially from Latin America and the Caribbean; Webb is aware of the complexities of his subjects and his style is a unique hybrid that lies somewhere between street photography and photojournalism. The subjective, mysterious and enigmatic aspects of his work distinguish it from what is more traditionally documentary photography. His images provoke more questions than specific answers in their beguiling and intriguing response to his subjects.

Born in San Francisco, Alex Webb majored in history and literature at Harvard University and studied photography at the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts. He has been a professional photographer since 1974. Alex Webb’s photographs are regularly published in major national and international publications including the New York Times Magazine, Life, US News and World Report, Geo, Stern, National Geographic and Aperture. He has published nine books, including Istanbul: City of a Hundred Names and Violet Isle: A Duet of Photographs from Cuba (with Rebecca Norris Webb), the latter exhibited at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, in 2011. His ninth book, The Suffering of Light, a collection of 30 years of his color work, was published by Aperture in 2011. His other books include Amazon: From the Floodplains to the Clouds (1997); From the Sunshine State: Photographs of Florida (1996); Under a Grudging Sun: Photographs from Haiti Libéré (1989); and Hot Light/Half-Made Worlds: Photographs from the Tropics (1986).

Webb has exhibited at museums worldwide including the Whitney Museum of American Art, the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego. His work is in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, N.Y., and the Guggenheim Museum, N.Y. Alex became a full member of the prestigious photo agency Magnum Photos in 1979. He has received numerous awards and grants including a Hasselblad Foundation Grant in 1998 and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2007. He is currently completing a second joint book with Rebecca Norris Webb, Memory City, which will be published in the spring of 2014 by Radius Books.

Click HERE for more information about Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb.

All photographs are Dye Coupler Prints.

RNW webb
Havana, 2008, Rebecca Norris Webb Havana, 2007, Alex Webb Havana, 2008, Rebecca Norris Webb

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