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Today the renowned Leica photographer is celebrating his eightieth birthday. However, even on this propitious day he is probably as busy and on the move as ever. Tomorrow evening, the Leica Gallery Los Angeles is inviting him to the vernissage of the exhibition Digital Color, which includes many of his most recent works, where the technical starting point was a 135mm Apo-Telyt f /3.4 lens on a Leica M 10. The photographs from this series also reveal the perfect interplay he achieves between what we see and what our eyes fail to see. This is typical, because Gibson has always explored the boundaries between reality and imagination with surprising sensitivity.

The US American’s approach is defined by perfect compositions of lines, surfaces, light and shadow. His nuanced imagery has been considered style-setting for many years, and his elegant nudes were largely responsible for drawing even more attention to his work. Gibson does not see photography as a means of documentation, but rather has given it his own aesthetic reality. Because of his use of fragmentary excerpts, deliberate close-ups and strong contrasts of dark and light, his motifs often appear abstract, even though the details always remain recognisable. As he says very explicitly, “I am not making nonobjective pictures; you can always recognize what is in the photograph. Reality is the only acceptable form of abstraction, for me.” For over 55 years, working in the dark room was part of the Gibson’s daily routine, until the day he chose to adopt digital photography to redefine himself as a photographer. In his opinion, “Digital speaks in subtle ways, often producing an entirely different perspective.”

The opening of the exhibition will be followed immediately by a four day Master Workshop with the photographer at the Leica Store Los Angeles, where participants will be able to learn the art of book making first hand from an expert. Gibson already discovered the fascination of book design with his first photo book, The Somnambulist. To date he has produced numerous photo books through his own publishing house, Lustrum Press. It is hardly surprising then that, on the occasion of his birthday, he has given himself – but above all his fans – a present in book form. Self-Exposure is a fascinating biography that includes countless details and anecdotes from the photographer’s colourful life, as well as pictures that have been unpublished till now.

And how does he summarise his life personally? “Doubtless, the greatest decisions I have made can be reduced to a handful of instances. Of course, the first important decision I made was to commit to photography; the second was to use only a Leica; the third was to practice yoga every morning; the fourth was to eschew commercial photography and concentrate entirely on my personal work; the fifth great decision was to share my life with Mary Jane; the sixth was to stop drinking; and, more recently, the seventh was the move to digital photography. There we have it! 80 years in seven decisions. I have a strong nostalgia for the future.”

With this in mind we wish him for all the best on his birthday and look forward to further great photographic moments! Many happy returns, Ralph Gibson!

Ralph Gibson: Self-Exposure @ Heni Publishing

Ralph Gibson: Vertical Horizon @ LFI 8.2018

Digital Color will run from January 17 to 24, 2019, at the Leica Gallery Los Angeles

Master Workshop with Ralph Gibson, January 18 to 21, 2019, Leica Store Los Angeles

All images on this page: © Ralph Gibson
© Lou Reed

Ralph Gibson

Ralph Gibson was born in Los Angeles on January 16, 1939. He studied photography in the US Navy and at the San Francisco Art Institute, and later worked as an assistant to Dorothea Lange and Robert Frank. In 1969 Gibson founded Lustrum Press. Since then, over 40 monographs of Gibson’s work have been published. His lives with his wife, fashion designer Mary Jane Marcasiano, in New York.

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