Masters of Photography: Ralph Gibson

Greetings Photoion students and photography fans, today we have another entry in our Masters of Photography series for you. This series looks at the life and work of some of the 20th century’s most important and influential photographers.

Today we will be taking a look at the work of Ralph Gibson.

Gibson was born in Los Angeles, California in 1939 and enlisted in the US Navy in 1956 where he became a Photographers Mate and learned photography. Since then, Gibson has gone on to become one of the most prolific photographers of the 20th century.

(c) Ralph Gibson

Gibson spent his first professional years serving in the employ of Dorothea Lange and later Robert Frank. The works of these two influential photographers surely made an impact on Gibson, whose signature style often focuses on mundane subjects like those that came before.

However, where Lange and Frank focused on the people in their photos, many of Gibson’s images obscure or exclude the face of the subject, resulting in a depersonalisation that allows the viewer to better focus on the shape and form of the subject and Gibson’s composition.

(c) Ralph Gibson

Many of Gibson’s images have strong contrast, with elements such as white clothes on black backgrounds, or dark shadows on pale skin.

Gibson has a strong fascination with form and dedicated an entire book (Nude) to the exploration of the female form. Like much of his work, the images in Nude are high contrast images that focus on lighting and form over traditional storytelling.

(c) Ralph Gibson

Gibson is also enamoured with printed images, books in particular, and even started his own printing house, Lustrum Press, to publish some of his work.

Gibson’s work has appeared in dozens of photobooks, in collections throughout the world, and his piece Hand Through a Doorway appeared on the inner sleeve of the album Unknown Pleasures by Joy Division.