trade + transport

In his imaging of African nations, Todd Webb documented their infrastructure, including the transportation systems upon which industrial economies relied: passenger planes, railways, and ports. Well before the arrival of colonial powers, Africa has been a hub of transcontinental, overland, riverine, coastal, and maritime trade, supporting local and global economies alike.

Seeking images of a dynamic, interconnected Africa flush with governmental and corporate investments, Webb amassed photographs of economies built upon local labor and extractive practices. In Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia), Webb shot from a mining shaft, a worker and his vehicle silhouetted against the dazzling light of the entrance. In Accra, Ghana, and Togoland (Togo), he photographed laborers at busy ports loading flour and other agricultural products onto boats. In Somaliland (Somalia), he photographed passengers stepping into a corporate jet for Sinclair Somal—an American oil company prospecting Italian-controlled territories. These and other photographs supported the United Nations’ goal of displaying a continent in transition through its trade and transportation, capitalizing upon its resources (human and environmental) to power its emerging democracies.