Alexia Webster Street Studios – An Archive of the Heart
All the years I was growing up, hanging in the hallway of my childhood home in South Africa was an old black and white photograph of my grandparents, my great uncles and my mother as a toddler, posing in a photographer’s studio.
They were recent economic migrants to South Africa from a small village on a little island in Greece. I would stare for hours at the photograph, my grandparents looking young and glamorous, dressed in their finest; at my 3-year-old mother, sitting obediently with curls in her hair; at the studio painted backdrop of a misty romantic scene. Though they had just left their whole world behind in search of a better life, to me they looked like elegant characters from a tale my grandmother would tell. This family photograph, of all the images I have, is my most treasured.
First created in March 2011, the Street Studio project is a communal family photo album which has set up free outdoor photographic studios on more than 20 street corners and public spaces around the world. In each community we visited we created public photo studio sets and invited any passing families and individuals to pose for a portrait. The photos were then printed on site for free with a photo printer for the participant to take away with them for their own family album. From street corners in informal settlements in Cape Town, to refugee camps in the DRC and South Sudan, a working rock quarry in Madagascar, a few neighbourhoods in Mumbai, India, and parks and migrant shelters in Tijuana, Mexico, the studios are set up with the understanding that a family photograph can be a powerful and precious object. Both a participatory art performance as well as a communal gathering space, the Studios are open and at the same time very intimate. By creating space for public displays of love and identity, they offer the community and individuals an affirmation of heritage and belonging. With thousands of photographs taken over an almost 8 year period, the Street Studio is an archive of family and love, an archive that documents not what makes things fall apart but what keeps them together.
About the artist
1979, South Africa
New York, United States
Alexia Webster is a photographer and visual artist whose work explores intimacy, family and identity across the African continent and beyond. In 2013, she was awarded the Artraker Award for Art in Conflict, the CAP Prize for Contemporary African Photography, and in 2007 she received the Frank Arisman Scholarship at the International Centre of Photography, New York.
Her work has been widely exhibited across South Africa, Nigeria, the United States, Europe, Réunion Island and India and published in numerous international publications. Most recently, Webster travelled to Tijuana, Mexico as part of an International Media Foundation fellowship and grant.
Joana Choumali, Ça va aller, 2016-2019
Shahidul Alam, Still She Smiles, 2014
Margaret Courtney-Clarke, Cry Sadness into the Coming Rain, 2014 - 2018
Rena Effendi, Transylvania: Built on Grass, 2012
Lucas Foglia, Human Nature, 2006 – 2019
Janelle Lynch, Another Way of Looking at Love, 2015-2018
Gideon Mendel, A Testament of Faded Memory, 2016
Ross McDonnell, Limbs, 2012
Ivor Prickett, End of the Caliphate, 2016 - 2018
Robin Rhode, Principle of Hope, 2017
Awoiska van der Molen, Am schwarzen Himmelsrund, 2010-2018
Alexia Webster, Street Studios, 2011-2018