I was talking to a lady the other day who lives down the street from me in Bath. She mentioned that the famous photographer Todd Webb once lived in her house. Sure enough, an internet search revealed photos that he took inside the house, as well as a portrait of the photographer standing in front of the old YMCA building downtown. 

Todd Webb struggled to find his place in life. After growing up in Detroit and Canada, he worked in the stock market until the crash of 1929. He tried working for Chrysler and spent time as a fire ranger. For several years, he struggled to make it as a gold prospector in California and Panama. That job didn’t pan out — no pun intended — but his photography hobby would eventually bring him national prominence.

Webb joined the Detroit Camera Club and took a 10-day photography course instructed by Ansel Adams. He honed his skills as a military photographer in World War II, then he made a name for himself by moving to New York City and producing simple, moving portraits of the Big Apple. This work was critically acclaimed, and Webb began to showcase his photos in New York City galleries. He went on to photograph the western United States and Africa and was hired by companies like Standard Oil and Fortune Magazine to do freelance work.

During this time, Webb made several famous friends; most notable was the artist Georgia O’Keeffe. Webb moved near her in New Mexico in 1961, and his famous portraits of her appear in the book “Georgia O’Keefe, The Artist’s Landscape.”

Webb apparently liked to travel. He moved to France for several years, and later lived in Bath, England. At the suggestion of a friend, he chose Maine as his place to retire. With a grant from the National Endowment of the Arts, he continued his work here in the Pine Tree State. 

Todd Webb died in 2000 at age 95. His archives are held in Portland.

Source: pressherald.com; time.com

Zac McDorr is a Coastal Journal contributing writer. He can be reached at [email protected]