The Diptych

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Assignment 3 - Ralph Gibson Critical Review, Research on Artist, Review of Work, Works by Other Photographers - Analysis

Ralph Gibson created his books with diptychs for many years, in order to allow the two images on the page to converse and to develop a visual overtone for the viewer. He believed that the books helps define both the sequence and the viewing distance that a person interacts with the work. This blog examine the effect of the diptych partly based on the view of others. The source reference for this blog is Ralph Gibson’s Overtones – Edited by Ray Merrit and Tom Beck – 1998. Edition Stemmle. and the accompanying mind map.

The diptych is seldom reviewed critically, however it has been commented on by Roland Barthes and Wilson Hicks – the later commenting that it is ‘human nature to find meaning between things’. Certain photographers such as Stieglitz, (clouds), and Robert Frank were the first to explore the effect of the diptych and other such as Minor White have extended its use by combining it with poetry). However Ralph Gibson has certainly done the most in terms of output especially using the photo book.
The diptych was first seen in some of his earlier work notably the Somnambulist, Deja-vu and Days at Sea.

What Ralph Gibson says about diptychs

I subtracts, isolates and fragments the subject matter to make images that include, as part of their content, what it FEELS LIKE to look at something – Interview with Ralph Gibson 1996

Parking images is like hitting a chord in music, the overtones cannot be directly struck but they are there.

What others says about diptychs

Tom Beck – Chief Curator at the University of Maryland
For him Gibson’s diptych has both spiritual and metaphysical properties, and their arrangement expands the evocative possibilities of the image so that the 2 pictures operate a 2 levels.

When correctly perceived, objects emit a low frequency hum – halo. Gibson’s photographs from this perceived state and the object comes to life.

Minor White 1959
I play photographs against each other until the fragmentary statements of two or more complete each other or between them say more than their added-up meanings.

Robert Frank 1954
The product I have in mind is one that will shape itself as it proceeds and is essentially elastic. The material is there, the practice will be in the photographers hand – the vision in his mind.

Robert Franks images were assembled in a dynamic filmic fashion, that created a loose, wordless narrative that is tough, tender, acerbic and romantic.
(source Ralph Gibson’s Overtones – Edited by Ray Merrit and Tom Beck – 1998. Edition Stemmle. Page 20)


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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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