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Discussion in 'Book, Magazine, Gallery Reviews, Shows & Contests' started by jtsatterlee, Dec 8, 2003.
Any recommendations for a good publication showcasing Ralph Gisbon's work?
Deus ex Machina is a book he published that basically has his whole photographic career compiled into one volume. It has some never published stuff including a few hard core porn-like images that you should be aware of if you have young ones around. It's a great compilation of a very interesting photographer and his vision.
I was fortunate to attend a one week seminar with Ralph at the college I attended back years ago. He had just published Semblance (sp?)and was generally very full on himself. After about the 3rd day of no one but him talking, he got mad and challenged all of us to tell him what we thought. I told him that I was embarrassed because I was not perceptive enough to realise he actually wanted us to participate and interact with him. I thought he just liked to hear himself talk. I was ready to walk out of the seminar at that point but he smiled and from then on, he and I got along.
This thread prompted me to google up this interview with Ralph
and his reply to the question "Have you ever used digital?"
Ralph: I have I have a wonderful relationship with Leica and they send me things to experiment with. Ive used the large S1, that big studio camera, and Ive used the little Digilux. I have four Macintosh computers in my studio as we speak right now. Digital photography is about another kind of information. Digital photography seems to excel in all those areas that Im not interested in. Im interested in the alchemy of light on film and chemistry and silver. When Im taking a photograph I imagine the light rays passing through my lens and penetrating the emulsion of my film. And when Im developing my film I imagine the emulsion swelling and softening and the little particles of silver tarnishing.
Chris/Larry: So youre not just previsualizing the image, youre visualizing the process?
Ralph: Im communicating with my materials. Its different than previsualizing. If you talk to a sculptor about how he looks at his rock or wood, you realize that he has a special relationship to his materials. In music its called attack. A concert violinist once told me that if Rubinstein came in and hit concert A, it would sound different than if Horiwitz came in and hit the same note. And a good musician will recognize which one was playing based on the performers attack. When you look at de Koonings brush stroke you can see the energy of the bristles of the brush right in the stroke of the paint. This is another example of attack. So Ive applied some of these principals to my relationship to my materials and I think of them with great respect. I think film has more intelligence than I have. I could not make a roll of film. I learned this when I was an assistant to Dorothea Lange, this incredible respect for materials, almost homage. But anyway, the big emphasis in digital photography is how many more million pixels this new model has than the competitors model. Its about resolution, resolution, resolution, as though that were going to provide us with a picture that harbored more content, more emotional power. Well in fact. Its very good for a certain kind of graphic thing in color but I dont necessarily do that kind of photograph. So when it comes to digital, I have to say that digital just doesnt look the way photography looks, it looks like digital. However, I strongly suspect some kid is going to come along with a Photoshop filter called Tri-X, and you just load that, and youve got your self something that looks like Photography (laughs). Its about the same relationship that videotape has to cinema. Digital imaging and photography share similar symbiosis. I think its a mutual coexistence situation. I dont think they even compare.
Read the whole interview.
This is a *wonderful* web site!! I've admired Ralph Gibson for a long time.
I skimmed ... and I *love* the quote from the interview with Jay Meisel:
Chris/Larry: I've read that you have a fully equipped studio as well? Do you have digital backs for all your equipment?
Jay: No. Don't believe everything you read. I don't really work that much in big format. And when I do it would be film.
lee, the book is "the somnambulist"
btw, yes, gibson uses rodinal
The part I like is:
Ralph: I had the incredible opportunity to apprentice to Dorothea Lange and Robert Frank. Although I learned a lot from both of them, one thing that rides above it all, they both told me, they stressed uniqueness. You really really have to be unique. You have to come up with your own visual signature. And its not a question of style. Our unique way of perceiving our own personal reality which is inherent within all of us. And it takes a while to get that harmony with your camera. But thats where photography really begins for me and for some of the photographers Ive admired through my lifetime. For example, you dont have to look at the signature to tell that its a Cartier Bresson, you can see it from across the parking lot. And it has to do with the way he puts the image together. And its something thats carefully thought out, researched at great personal expense. Otherwise photography is very simple. They have all these PHD cameras now. That means just push here dummy (laughs). So, anybody can take that kind of picture.
End of quote.
I'm so sick and tired of "me too" pics. Doing something original or seeing it is what gets my juices going.
*Very good* advice from a **Master**. I'm also tired ..."Ennui-ed out" by so much of the "follow the lead Lemming", in contemporary art, too.
Only one thing puzzles me ... the difference between "signature" and "style". To me, they are synonymous ... but I guess Gibson makes some distinction between them.
I've got to take time to read the whole interview.
I'd hazard that he means "style" as a deliberate mannerism, while what he's talking about is "phenomenological extension" -- a feeling that the machine and process have become part of the physical body (a simple illustration of the process -- imagine how you "feel"the road when driving).
Lack of this connection is, imo, the biggest problem with the modern generations of electronic cameras. It disconnects your hand from the physical process.
Mechanical cameras like the Leica are just the opposite, very tuned to the hand. Gibson's physical/mental process, however he imagines it, is probably pretty transparent to him -- the hands know where to go and what to do and the entire process gives him the result he expects -- he doesn't worry about anything to get that imagined pic onto the film. This is different from "style" and not unlike Miles Davis's explanation about some of his music (quoting from memory here): "I'll play it, and then you let me know what to call it."
if anyone is interested in further study of phenomology as it applies to the arts I suggest Jose Ortega Y Gasset's book: The Dehumanization of Art. A wonderful collection of essays discussing art and the art world in general (revised editoin written in the late 1960's).
Phenomenology is a philosophy wherein reality consists of objects and events as humans perceive and understand them--reality is not independent form human conciousness. In my opinion this is the view held (in a primitive form) by Edward Weston of the arts. When taken to a logical (to my eyes) conclusion you end up with a very Whiteheadian view of the arts . . . blah, blah, blah. I like to ramble
thanks for that I could never have spelled it. I mean I know what it means I just cannot spell it. Trix and rodinal
All this is wonderful food for thought.
I envision "style" as the opposite ... the true preconsicious "structure" developed by the photographer, that defines and identifies her/his work. "Signature" is, or was ... I'm not so sure anymore ... an artificial affectation, chosen consciously to try to establish some sort of "value" to the work of one insecure of his/her individual intrinsic value.
I looked "style" up in my Funk nd Wagnalls (no kidding ... Funk and Wagnalls Standard College Dictionary) and here it defines "style" as an individual, characteristic way of doing something (simplified ... I count 18 entries).
This is a favorite discussion of "Cocktail Party Dilettantes" ... who love to ramble on, talking about something that is really unknowable - as if they had the ultimate understanding of the subject - and, the more I listen to them, the more I am convinced that *no one* does... gulp!! ... not even ... ME!
It still is an important ... make that *VITAL* concept ... and although I seriously doubt that we can understand it ... It DOES exist .
That is contrary to the "scientific" approach... where if we can't understand something ... it *necessarily* does not exist ... as opposed to mysticism.
The hell with it - I'll continue to be a "mystic", accepting the idea that there are thins out there that I do not know intimately... like "style" or "spirit" ...
It works better for me.
Ed, I think we need to let others (marketing Types) define an individuals style, there is so much already to be concerned with, with respect to the craft that the artist is already to focused on their objective and issues related to accomplishment, it would be impossible to step back and define in words your own style. Their are a lot of obvious conclusion that can be drawn from types of tools,experiance and choice of medium but style and spirit are conclusions best left to those more objective. Anytime someone thinks to hard about what their doing rather than staying in the moment their freedom gets bogged down.
I don't try to define, or select my style. I think that "style" or "signature" (still comptemplating semantics) is THERE, always. It is not something that can be faked - just as the results from a Rorshack Ink Bolt Test cannot be "faked".
It is individual, it is more or less -- largely -- somewhere in there - preconscious; that is, below the level of our perception. Its influence on one's work is not only there, but unavoidably THERE.
We can work on the techniques of photography, certainly. I would venture a guess that everyone here - and most involved with photography - DO. Techniques can be learned, composition, exposure, swings and tilts, ... on to absurdity.
"Style" - aesthetics ... I think we assimilate those, rather than learn them.
The aesthetics - what we "feel" in our hearts and bones - is by far the most important factor in our, and ALL art.
I once met a High School Art teacher - of the *highest* order. He was an accomplished artist in his own right, and well respected by all of his students.
He once said, "If I give one of my students an assignment, involving `seeing' through my eyes, and approaching the subject the way *I* would; and s/he tells me, `The hell I will! I'm going to do it as *I* see fit,' ... that is the student I have really taught something about art."