Taking inspiration from musicians and abstract artists Ralph Gibson’s images seem to speak to the surreal and subconscious. Known for his photographic books and prints, his dramatic compositions evoke a deep sense of mystery and an eye for detail that can turn the ordinary into profound studies in abstraction.
Image: © Lou Reed
Ralph Gibson is an American photographer best known for his fine-art images that explore the surreal visual nature of the subconscious. Utilizing visual fragments that resemble the way we see in dreams, Gibson’s images are mysterious, symbolic and often erotic.
He was born in Hollywood, California in 1939. His father was an assistant director to Alfred Hitchcock and as a young boy he would visit the set during filming. He was impressed by the power of the camera lens and the intensity of the lights; this set him on the path to his later work in photography.
Gibson is equally renowned for his contributions to the evolution of photographic book publication, in fact, one might say that he revolutionized it. His deep concern with how a sequence of photographs can become a new and more meaningful unit in book form was evident in his first book The Somnambulist, with its carefully developed page transitions and meaningful sequencing. He founded Lustrum Press in 1969 in order to ensure control over his published work, following The Somnambulist with additional landmark monographs such as Deja-Vu and Days at Sea. Over the years, Lustrum Press also allowed for the publication of other ground-breaking books such as Tulsa, by Larry Clark and The Lines of My Hand by Robert Frank.
Gibson’s role in photographic fine art image making and book publication cannot be overestimated. In addition to publications and exhibitions, he has given lectures and led workshops in over twenty countries. He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts; he has been awarded the Leica Medal of Excellence and is a Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres of France. In 2018 he was appointed Chevalier of the Legion of Honor by the president of France.