Ralph Gibson Early Life

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Assignment 3 - Ralph Gibson Critical Review, Research on Artist

His Wikipedia’s entry describes him as follows:-
‘Ralph Gibson (born January 16, 1939) is an American art photographer best known for his photographic books. His images often incorporate fragments with erotic and mysterious undertones, building narrative meaning through contextualization and surreal juxtaposition’ –

However Ralph Gibson is much deeper then this as I will elaborate in later blogs. This blog will provide a brief background to his life.

His interest in lighting probably originated from his father who managed the lighting for the Hitchcock movies, and Ralph was often on set helping him with the bright carbon lights and contrast levels – this is evident in his work.
His interest in photography came from his time in the Navy where he was a ships photographer, and this helped develop his technical side.
His first big break was working as Dorothea Lange assistant after dropping out of art school when he left the Navy. She taught him the concepts of the ‘Point of Departure’ as a a strategy for taking pictures which he’s still uses today – more on this later. The other key lesson he learnt whilst working with Dorothea and Robert Frank was the printing process and the respect for the materials.
He spent a number of years trying to find his photographic style and purpose and it took him a while to move away from photojournalism towards his ‘subject based’ studies which focused on ‘photos relevant to and idea’. His early work concentrated on places such as San Francisco, and New York where he kept and associated with an number of influential people in the art and music world. His pictures at this time were quite varied but there were traces of his later style, his interest in ordinary objects and their evocative potential. His white rose and man in San Francisco -see link 4698758.jpg  was, to him, the start of his new journey.
He started with a Leica and stayed with this camera all his career, but it was during these early years that he began to understand what the eye sees, and the difference between ones vision and perception. It was these factors that drove him to create his first photo book ‘Somnambulist’ and the creation of his printing process with Lustrum press. This process of photo’s relevant to and idea’ was acclaimed by photographers artist and the public and created a loyal following.

This new journey based on his book publications is the subject of a future blog.

After 50 years, he still takes photographs and produces books, and still has a number of projects (points of departure) that he is working on. His subject matters is always interesting and varied and continually evolving. He often has exhibitions around the world but unfortunately has yet to have one in the UK.

He has had over 150 collections of his works exhibited world wide.
2011 FOTOmentor Lifetime Award, Palm Beach Photographic Center
2007 The Lucie Award
2002 Appointed, Commandeur de L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres de France
1999 Silver Plum Design Trust for Public Space
1997 Doctor of Fine Arts, Ohio Wesleyan University
1994 Grand Medal of the City of Arles, France
1991 Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts, University of Maryland
1989 Eastman Kodak Grant to photography, “L’Histoire de France ”
“150 Years of Photography” Award, Photographic Society of Japan
1988 Leica Medal of Excellence Award
1986 Decorated, Officier de L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres de France
National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship
1985 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship
1977 D.A.A.D West Berlin, Germany
C.A.P.S., New York State Council of the Arts Fellowship
1975 National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship
1973 National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship

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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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