Ralph Gibson, Perfect Strings – Blind Magazine

Café opposite the Musée d’Orsay: Les Deux Musées. Ralph Gibson is waiting at a table. Laika along the body. natural extension. His eye lingered on a booth poster: “You see this hotel in the picture behind you, it’s the Chelsea Hotel in New York. I lived there for three years from 1967 to 1969, and that’s where I met Leonard Cohen. We became good friends – Gibson would accompany him on guitar on the album New Skin for Old Ceremon (1974) – There was everyone in this hotel!”

Gibson arrives at this historic milestone for artists-turned-creators with $200 in his pocket and three lekas, including two in a pawnshop, becoming Robert Frank’s assistant. He had already followed the teachings of Dorothea Lange at the beginning of the 1960’s, being dragged as a child on the sets of Alfred Hitchcock films for which his father was an assistant. To the good school will say the other.

Born in 1939, the former U.S. Navy photographic program cadet who briefly passed through the magnum honed his explosive blue eyes with gentlemen. “They welcomed me into their world because I was younger and not a competing photographer”He says.

“I think I got three important pieces of advice from them: André Kertész told me that a photographer should learn to photograph everything, Henri Cartier-Bresson told me ‘Ralph, you think too much’ and Robert Frank advised, ‘If you think photography is too complicated, then you should try having sex.” » Gibson possesses the sense of formula and the dynamism and attitude of a self-made person.

Since its publication in the wonderful 1970’s sleeper Through his publishing house, Lustrum Press, he has never stopped writing through images, reinventing the photography narrative in more than thirty books.

with refraction 2 He delivers to the reader a melody of texts and clichés, his reflections on the medium, the teachings received, and an introspection into his contracts in the service of the image.

Dorothea Lange, 1938 © Ralph Gibson
Untitled from The Somnambulist, 1970 © Ralph Gibson
Untitled from The Somnambulist, 1970 © Ralph Gibson
Untitled from The Somnambulist, 1970 © Ralph Gibson
Untitled from The Somnambulist, 1970 © Ralph Gibson

Photography priesthood

Gibson is imbued with French culture, loving words as much as photography, and his books have shaped a new way of displaying fine art photography, through literary impulse and schematics (dive into double page 160-161 of the book).

“In recent years I have begun to write more seriously about my beauty. Whatever we understand we can transcribe in words otherwise we never really understood.”, presses. We’ll quote it here, Nicholas Boileau’s sentence: “What is well conceived is clearly stated, and the words that say it come easily.”

The book is an intimate way to read a picture. A comprehensive thinking of photography that the accredited New Yorker decouples from the social experience of the exhibition: “In a book, we see how pictures can make us think.”

first words refractions 2 come from the statement. Photography is a priesthood, a ministry, a spiritual search. First we study photography, then we serve photography, and finally we try to become a photographer. When Curtis died, part of the picture was left with him. was filming”And the Gibson writes.

He tells us that being a photographer is the result of immersion in art history, learning from peers, and constant humility. “I’m in constant training.”He likes to repeat like a dogma in his American-style French style.

France has a special flavor for him. Land of culture and aesthetics. However, he takes a critical look at it, announcing the inevitable evaporation of the great European cultures. Gibson comes to ring the bells. France has a duty and a responsibility to photography. “This is the country I was born in. It is the only country where photography is placed on the same level as literature.”

The Order of Arts and Letters, then appointed to the rank of Knight in the Order of the Legion of Honor in 2018And the Ralph Gibson- who left school at the age of sixteen and has a favorite word in Molière’s language “demanding” – He recalls his crucial meetings with French intellectuals. “Madame Marguerite”As he affectionately calls Marguerite Duras, he will sign the preface to his book French history.

The Woman characters appear in picture format refractions 2in the shade of his rectangular glasses, cigarette in hand. “All her writings had a great influence on my perceptions and having her as a friend was an unparalleled honor,” adds in his lines. “I was very lucky to be able to meet all these people”The photographer salutes, raising his arms to the sky.

Madame Marguerite
Madame Margaret, 1974 © Ralph Gibson
Untitled From The Literary Salon, 1971-2021 © Ralph Gibson
Untitled From The Literary Salon, 1971-2021 © Ralph Gibson

“My eyes are always open.”

Gibson’s work bears the traces of these encounters, from his fascination with the works of Matisse, Duchamp, Pollock, and Degas, to literature, particularly Le Nouveau Roman, Mallarmé’s verses, and the genealogy of ancient Greece and cinema, one big one. I was definitely influenced by Hitchcock and his use of close-up detail. Even today, I keep getting closer and closer to the topic »he wrote.

divided into thematic chapters, refractions 2 traces what makes Gibson’s signature, a dreamlike universe steeped in symbolism. These blacks and whites with immemorial blackness, with imperial contrasts. This eye that catches lines that just strike, these curves that frame, this substance that overflows.

Work on the color, too. Very little language is mentioned in his work. I approached it with digital. After 55 years of photography, I would like to speak another language. He smiled with French in his voice. “Today it is much easier for me to work with the digital system, but the most important thing is my eyes, not the medium.”

Then Gibson stands up. “You see this nail planted on its own, without a picture hanging, the shade is so sexy. Clack, release.” It’s the presence of absence. He sits. “My eyes are always open. The best way to find pictures is to leave my camera at home and go outside. So I see pictures everywhere. It really is the best way.” he joked.

He didn’t write it with that in mind, however refractions 2 Aimed at future generations of photographers, it’s a transmission of antiquity, a legacy entrusted by someone who knew the greats, who also became a great man of photography.

Alfred Hitchcock, Strangers on a Train, 1951 © Ralph Gibson
Alfred Hitchcock, Strangers on a Train, 1951 © Ralph Gibson
Ingmar Bergman Persona, 1967 © Ralph Gibson
Ingmar Bergman Persona, 1967 © Ralph Gibson

Music and photography, search for a third language

Ralph Gibson is also a fan of box music. The name, of course. His love of the guitar, music in general, and classical music in particular, his rock legend friends, and his quest to relate notes to photography are evident.

It evokes the Leica M and its 35mm or its transition to digital and the 135mm f/3.4 Apo-Telyt as one might speak of the Stradivarius 1715. Writing with light requires a precise tool.It slides with one hand resting on its inseparable cover with the red dot.

He talks to you about photography like the result and where Melody is to music what reality is to photography. It reminds you of his studio in which Bach’s cantatas are echoed, often illuminated by the red light of his darkened room. It seems, then, that this phrase was made by Henri Cartier-Bresson after listening to A Suite for solo cello Written by Johann Sebastian Bach “It is music for dancing, before you die.”

Gibson composes, plays guitar in front of his pictures, and performs with his friends. Prom fondly remembers “Do not forget” Shared with Laurie Anderson a few months ago: “One of the greatest American artists”. His old friend Andy Summers paid tribute to him during his Paris photo exhibition, at the Polka Galerie. The Police guitarist met Gibson in 1983. The chords were distinguished between the chords and the trigger.

The photographer specifically searches for an unexplored locale, like striving towards the New Tower of Babel. I am trying to solve the conundrum between music and photography. I want to bring the two languages ​​together to create a third language”He demonstrates, announcing that he is working on a specific piece of music.

Constantly, he continues to explore photography, without really worrying about past events, he tells us, – he just opened up black trilogy (until March 31, 2023) at the GoEun Museum of Photography in Busan, South Korea -. “I realized that as an artist, I was a grain of sand in the desert of culture. Picasso is a spot, Michelangelo is a spot… All I really care about is my next picture. I have so many things in my head that I’m trying to turn into photography. That’s what I focus on. Because I want to know what’s inside of me.” . What’s there [pointe du doigt son cœur]. »

Cartier-Bresson did not say anything else when he wrote in silhouette from natureAnd the Imaging means placing the head, eye and heart on the same line of sight.

Untitled from Days at Sea, 1974 © Ralph Gibson
Untitled from Days at Sea, 1974 © Ralph Gibson
Henri Matisse, The Piano Lesson, 1916 © Ralph Gibson
Henri Matisse, The Piano Lesson, 1916 © Ralph Gibson

refractions 2Ralph Gibson, Lustrum Press, 240 pages, $48.

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