Gibson polarizes a bunch of people. His graphic approach and ‘artiste’ like existence means he is somehow dismissed by some as being flippant and without too much weight (?!). His output over the 50 odd years of his photographic life has been consistently strong without reverting to a parody of himself.

L’Histoire De France sits on my shelf, the first colour work of his that I have been exposed to in the long printed form. There are some killer snaps in there, one of a stair case and amputated figure that is awesome… but at the same time a few which leave me cold and without any real spark.

His ‘signature’ bold, solid blacks and sharp heavy grain make much of Gibson’s b&w work quite easily recognised with its graphic shapes and unflinching gaze. The oft repeated mantra of ‘TriX and Rodinol’ probably simplifies the process a little too much, but at least gives a basis to some of the visual cues people react to.

For such a ‘name-artist’ I was recently surprised by the prices of his prints. The numbers I’ve seen, while a chunk of change that I don’t have hanging around, are not the stratospheric $$$ that so much photography seems to be commanding at this point.

In a yawn-fest (and really cringe worthy) step, Gibson’s long commitment to the Leica RF system has meant that he has been dragged into (or maybe happily jumped aboard) the marketing and ‘special limited edition’ world of product creation. There is a ‘Ralph Gibson limited edition Leica MP’ available, endorsed and signed by him… and it is even featured on his website! I found this very surprising… I wouldn’t blink if it was hyped up on the Leica page, but on his own site where his work resides (?)… it just comes off as unnecessary and a bit slimey.

www.ralphgibson.com

Interviews here, here, and here.

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