Chris Maher/ Larry Berman Interview with Ralph Gibson 2001

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Assignment 3 - Ralph Gibson Critical Review, Research on Artist, Review of Work

This is a summary of the main points made in the above interview in 2001. The interview confirms a number points about Ralph Gibson’s style which have been mentioned before, but with some extra insight into areas such as his equipment and his views on digital. Most of these have been based on my mind map – see attached.

Ralph Gibson’s vision is still to photograph humble objects and make them evocative subjects in themselves via his perception of them. He has no interest in epic events. His preferred medium for showing his work is via photo books as these are a continuation of the photographic process that allow him to provide additional ‘visual overtone’ and emotion via their arrangement of the photographs in his books. His natural process for composition is to fit things to the ‘Golden mean’ as well as providing a ‘certain tension’ in the shot.
He does not have a message – just the photograph, and he describes this as follows ‘ I look at my work from every facet of my personality before I can claim that I have looked at a picture’.

On a shoot he goes out with two Leica’s, (M6), one for colour and one for black and white. He also takes 3 lenses – a 35, 50 and a 90 mm lens.
The Leica has been his choice of camera for the last 50 years. He loves the rangefinder because you see inside and outside the frame and he can use this to decide whats in or subtracted from the image – he matches this to his perception of the ‘point of departure’ and he rarely crops.
He will use Kodacrome, Rodland, and Fuji film, the Leica’s in built meters and generally uses the ‘centre weight’ setting.
He has 4 Macs-computers, and has a real interest in this supporting technology. He was an early adopter of Photoshop and loves it. He has used these software tools for over 25 years and keeps up with the latest tools and techniques – but only those areas that are relevant to him. He mainly uses these tools for helping him create his books and to get a constant look across all his images in the book.
He will use scanned images of his prints rather then the negative as he feels that this is the best and most authentic way of doing things.
He is ‘ primarily focused on photography, – getting work out and published is easy now.’

Ralph Gibson’s interest is in Alchemy – how light, film and the silver work together ‘ I imagine light waves passing through the lens and penetrating the emulsion on the film.’
He believes that film looks the way he see things in the lens, and he has great respect for the materials and the printing processes – which he believes he acquired when apprentice to Dorothea Large and Robert Franks.
He describes his way of photography as his ‘Attack’ (style), – like the personal attack a professional musician would have when playing a piece of music.
He develops all his own film, and enjoys the different effect of grain which he feels adds irregularities that enhances the creative process. The things he misses is the range of papers types that he had in the earlier years.

He has tried digital a few times but it is not for him. He puts it like this:- ‘
Digital photography excels in a all the areas that I am not interested in’
‘Its another type of of information … Its not photography to me’

His advice to others is to ‘be unique and and to perceive the world from your own personal reality and be in harmony with the camera and the finished product.’

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At a practical level, a good photograph is more about being in the right place at the right time and knowing what to take then the type of camera, skill and technique. My ambition is to show how anyone with a camera can produce great photographs when they visit London.

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